There are 220 species of trees and woody climbers that have been identified inside the Sinharaja forest reserve. Of these, 40% have low population densities (10 or fewer individuals per 25 ha) and 43% have restricted distributions, which make them vulnerable to additional encroachments into the reserve. Sinharaja is home to 139 (64%) of the 217 indigenous wet lowland trees and woody climbers found in Sri Lanka, 16 of which are rare (Peeris, 1975; Gunatilleke & Gunatilleke, 1981, 1985). De Zoysa & Raheem (1987) provide a summary of the structure and composition of the vegetation, and the Forest Department’s 1986 Conservation Plan included a list of 202 plants along with information on their endemicity and uses.
Table of Contents
- Forest Reserve of Siharraja
- LOCATIONAL DETAILS
- Dates and the establishment’s history
- LAND TENURE
- TREES AND PLANTS
- CULTURAL IMPORTNACE
- THE HUMAN POPULATION HERE
- VISITORS AS WELL AS VISITOR AMENITIES
- SCIENTIFIC FACILITIES AND RESEARCH
Forest Reserve of Siharraja
Because it is the only substantial remaining portion of the virgin primary tropical rainforest that once covered the entire island, the Sinharaja Forest Reserve in southwest Sri Lanka is significant to the entire nation. Numerous uncommon and indigenous trees make up 64% of the tree population. Additionally, 23% of all endemic creatures in Sri Lanka, including 85% of all endemic birds and more than 50% of all endemic mammals, reptiles, and butterflies, may be found in the reserve.
NATION: Sri Lanka
TYPE: Reserve for Sinharaja Forest Reserve
NATURAL WORLD HERITAGE SITE: 1988: Listed under Natural Criteria ix and x on the World Heritage List. 1978 saw its international designation as a Biosphere Reserve (11,187 ha) under the UNESCO Man & Biosphere Programme.
IUCN Classification of Management: II National Park
Ceylonese Rainforest is the biological province (4.02.01)
8,564 hectares in area.
ALTITUDE: West Hinipitigala Peak, 300 m to 1,170 m.
located in the provinces of Sabaragamuwa and Southern, in the southwest lowlands of Sri Lanka, 90 kilometres southeast of Colombo. 6°21′ to 6°26′ N, 80°21′ to 80°34′ E is its boundary, with the Napola Dola and Koskulana Ganga to the north, the Maha Dola and Gin Ganga to the south and south-west, the Kalukandawa Ela and Kudawa Ganga to the west, and the Denuwa Kanda and an old pathway near Beverley Tea Estate to the east.
Dates and the establishment’s history
1875: The Waste Lands Ordinance (Gazette 4046) designated the majority of the land as the Sinharaja-Makalana Forest Reserve; the remaining portion was suggested for a forest reserve in the early 20th century;
1926: A 9,203-hectare Sinharaja Forest Reserve was established to safeguard watersheds;
1978: All of the current and proposed forest reserves were designated as UNESCO Biosphere Reserves;
1988: Gazette 528/14 announced the creation of a 7,648.2-hectare National Heritage Wilderness Area. 8,864 hectares total, of which 6,092 are forest reserves and 2,772 are prospective forest reserves, are included as World Heritage sites.
1992: The State Party created the 11,187-hectare Sinharaja National Heritage Wilderness Area, which was formerly the Sinharaja Forest Reserve and coincided with the Biosphere Reserve, by incorporating an adjacent forest extension within the World Heritage site. According to the Forest Department (2003), it is not yet an expansion of the World Heritage Site.
Condition overseen by the Ministry of Lands and Land Development’s Forest Department. arranged by a National Steering Committee in cooperation with the Biosphere Reserve.
The Rakwana mountain massif is surrounded by a sequence of ridges and valleys in this 21-by-4-kilometer stretch of undulating piedmont. It is drained by a complex network of streams that merge into two main rivers: the Maha Dola empties into the Gin Ganga (river) on the southern edge, while the Napo Dola, Koskulana Ganga, and Kudawa Ganga rivers flow into the Kalu Ganga on the northern edge. The reserve is situated in the area where two primary rock types that are typical of Sri Lanka meet. Metasediments, charnockites, and calc-granulites bearing scapolite comprise a series of formations in the southwest; khondaites of metamorphosed sediments and charnockites make up the highland group (Cooray, 1978). The Sinharaja Basic Zone is a rather sizable outcropping of basic rocks located in the middle. This includes modest amounts of quartzite, garnet-biotite gneisses, intermediate charnockites, hornblende, pyroclasts, basic charnockites, pyroxene amphibolites, and calc-granulites containing scapolite (Hapuarachi et al., 1964). This zone is associated with an aeromagnetic anomaly, which has most likely played a role in the desilication that gave rise to the local gem fields (Katz, 1972; Munasinghe & Dissanayake, 1980). With the exception of alluvium in the valleys, the mostly reddish-yellow podzol soils are impermeable, weather to laterite in certain areas, and exhibit very little organic matter buildup. According to de Zoysa and Raheem (1987), this is explained by a mix of factors, including the climate, a complex soil microbiota that quickly breaks down organic matter into its component nutrients, and the trees’ quicker uptake and recycling of the nutrients.
The northeast monsoon, which runs from November to January, and the southwest monsoon, which runs from May to July, both bring rain to the forest. It’s almost entirely in the range of 3810mm to 5080mm isohyets. There is never a dry period and an average yearly rainfall of over 2500 mm, with an average of 189 mm in February, the driest month (Gunatilleke & Gunatilleke, 1983). The impact of the continual rainfall mitigates the minimal seasonal variation in temperature, which varies greatly throughout the day (de Zoysa & Raheem, 1987). Temperatures range from 19°C to 34°C.
TREES AND PLANTS
Part of a 47,000-hectare deep lowland forest, three-quarters of which was logged in the 19th century, Sinharaja is an intact section of Sri Lanka’s historic tropical rainforest (de Zoysa & Simon, 1999). More than half of Sri Lanka’s surviving similar forest is found there. 116 of the 337 species that call that place home are threatened worldwide. Remaining Dipterocarp woodland below approximately 500 metres, Shorea forest, climax vegetation throughout the majority of the reserve on the middle and upper slopes to 900 metres, and a transitional zone to tropical montane forest above approximately 900 metres are the three primary types of forest found there. According to Gunatilleke and Gunatilleke (1981), there are 220 species of trees and woody climbers that have been identified. Of these, 40% have low population densities (10 or fewer individuals per 25 ha), and 43% have restricted distributions, which make them vulnerable to additional encroachments into the reserve. Sinharaja is home to 139 (64%) of the 217 indigenous wet lowland trees and woody climbers found in Sri Lanka, 16 of which are rare (Peeris, 1975; Gunatilleke & Gunatilleke, 1981, 1985). De Zoysa & Raheem (1987) provide a summary of the structure and composition of the vegetation, and the Forest Department’s 1986 Conservation Plan included a list of 202 plants along with information on their endemicity and uses.
The predominant canopy trees in the valleys and on the lower slopes are Dipterocarpus hispidus (bu-hora) (CR) and D. zeylanicus (hora) (EN), which are found in few nearly pure stands but are usually dispersed due to the encroachment of tea and rubber plantations. Other trees are Wormia spp. (diyapara), Vitex altissima (milla), Messua spp. (na), Doona (dun), and Chaetocarpus (hadawaka). Dispersed emergents towering 45 metres above the main canopy are a defining feature of this type of forest. Where the original forest cover was eliminated by shifting cultivation or rubber and tea plantations, secondary forest and scrub have spread widely (de Rosayro, 1954).
The largest forest is found on the intermediate slope. According to de Rosayro (1942), this begins at roughly 500 metres, or above 335 metres (Gunatilleke & Gunatilleke, 1985). The Mesua-Doona (na-dun) community, which includes Mesua nagassarium (batu-na), M., is what defines it. ferrea (diya-na) and a number of Shorea species (dun). The tree canopy is 30–40 metres high, uninterrupted, and devoid of emergents. A variety of plants co-dominate the subcanopy; Garcinia hermonii and Xylopia championii consistently dominate the undercover; there is little groundcover (Gunatilleke & Gunatilleke, 1985).
The vegetation transitions between tropical wet evergreen and tropical montane forests on the higher slopes and ridges, where the size of the trees decreases. The vegetation in the 1988 addition to the east is sub-montane evergreen forest, and the stunted trees on exposed tops are characteristic of montane circumstances. Diospyros sylvatica (sudu kadumberiya), Terminalia parviflora (hampalanda), Mastixia nivali (VU), Doona gardneri (dun), Calophyllum calaba (keena), C. thwaitesii (VU), and Oncosperma fasciculatum (katu kitual) are some species that are not found anywhere else. A few rather uncommon species are Antidesma pyrifolium, Glycosmis cyanocarpa, Lindasea repens, Techtaria thwaitesii, and calamander ebony Diosporus quaesita. Numerous native herbs and shrubs make up the undergrowth; common species include Schizostigma sp., Paspalum confugatum, Arundina gramimifolia, bamboo orchid, and Lycopodium sp. The species are Dicranopteris linearis and Badalvanassa.
In Sinharaja, the following trees have girths of more than 300 cm: Mesua ferrea, Mesua thwaitesii (diya na), Dipterocarpus zeylanicus, D. hispidus, Shorea stipularisi (hulan idda), Vitex altissima, Pseudocarpa championii (gona pana) (VU), S. trapezifolia (yakahalu), Cryptocarya membranacea (tawwenna) (EN), Hopea discolour (mal-mora) (EN), Palaquium petiolare (kirihambiliya), Scutinanthe brunnea (mahabulu mora), Syzygium rubicundum (maha kuratiya), and Mangifera zeylanica (etamba). The palm Loxococcus rupicola (dotalu) (CR) and the rare endemic Atalantia rotundifolia are exclusively found in Sinhagala at an elevation of 742 metres. There are still 169 wild plants that the local villagers are known to use (Manikrama, 1993). Key species that are extensively used are bamboo, Ochlandra stridula (bata), Calamus ovoideus, and C. kitul palm, Caryota urens, which is used to make jaggery, a sugar alternative. Elattaria ensal for spice, Shorea sp. for cardamom, and Zeylanicus (wewal) for cane. For flour, use (dun), Shorea sp. (beraliya), Vatima copallifea (hal), Coscinium fenestratum (weni wal), and varnish/incense (Gunatilleke et al., 1994; Lubowski, 1996).
The 1986 Conservation Plan of the Forest Department contains preliminary inventories of wildlife. Endemism is prominent. 60 (23%) of the 270 vertebrate animal species that the Forest Department has documented are endemic. There are eight endemic mammals, 147 endemic birds, 10 endemic amphibians, 21 endemic reptiles, 72 endemic fish, and 20 endemic amphibians. Sinharaja is home to 95% of the indigenous bird species of Sri Lanka, more than half of which are uncommon or have low population numbers. Mammals, reptiles, and butterflies are particularly rich in endemism. 21 of the 65 species of butterflies found here are indigenous.
In the northeast, there is a little population of Elephas maximus (EN), or Indian elephants. The Sri Lankan leopard, Panthera pardus kotiya (EN), is the predominant predator despite being rarely sighted. The native purple-faced langur (Trachypithecus vetulus), the northern red muntjac (Muntiacus vaginalis malabaricus), the fishing cat Zibethailurus viverrina, the jackal (Canis aureus lanka), the western toque macaque (Macaca sinica aurifrons)), the rusty-spotted cat Prionailurus rubiginosus (VU), the crested wild boar (Sus scrofa cristatus), the sambar (VU), and the white-spotted mouse deer (Moschiola meminna) are some of the mammals that live there. The Indian pangolin, Manis crassicaudata, and the Eurasian otter, Lutra lutra nair, are two of the twenty smallest animals. The following birds are rare or endangered: the endemic ashy-headed laughingthrush Garrulax cinereifrons (VU), green-billed coucal Centropus chlororhynchus (VU), Sri Lanka white-faced starling Sturnus albofrontatus (VU), Sri Lanka blue magpie Urocissa ornata (VU), and the red-faced malkoha Phaenicophaeus pyrrhocephalus (VU) (Hoffmann, 1984). The last five years have seen a significant decline in sightings of the Sri Lanka broad-billed roller, Eurystomus orientalis irisi (de Zoysa & Raheem, 1987).
The Asiatic python, Python molurus, is one of the most threatened endemic species among reptiles and amphibia, with numerous others listed as nationally vulnerable. Notable species include the rarest agamid on the island, the spineless forest lizard Calotes liocephalus (EN), the rare rough-nosed horned lizard Ceratophora aspera (VU), which is limited to a portion of Sri Lanka’s wet zone, and the uncommon endemic microhylid frog Ramella palmata (de Zoysa & Raheem, 1987). Evans (1981) examines the conservation status of the endemic red-tail goby Sicyopterus halei, black ruby barb Puntius nigrofasciatus, cherry barb Puntius titteya, smooth-breasted snakehead Channa orientalis, and combtail Belontia signata, which are all considered threatened freshwater species. There are 21 indigenous species of butterflies out of 65. Graphium antiphates ceylonicus, a five-bar swordtail, and the striking Sri Lanka rose, Atrophaneura jophon (CR), both of which are regarded as extremely rare elsewhere, are prevalent in Sinharaja during specific seasons of the year (Collins & Morris, 1985; J. Banks, pers. comm., 1986). Baker provided an early overview of the fauna in 1937, and de Zoysa & Raheem (1987) provide a thorough summary.
One of the richest regions of the ecological “hotspot” in southern India is the Sinharaja Forest Reserve. It is Sri Lanka’s largest and last remaining viable example of a lowland tropical rain forest. There are several beneficial plants and 64% of Sri Lanka’s endemic trees. There are also 23% of the country’s endemic creatures, including 85% of its endemic birds, over 50% of its endemic mammals, and many rare endemic reptiles (IUCN, 2000). The park is one of the world’s endemic bird areas and is situated in a WWF Global 200 Freshwater Eco-region, which has been identified as a Conservation Hotspot by Conservation International.
The area is mentioned in folklore and tales, having a history that dates back to the time of the ancient Sinharaja rulers. The name, which literally translates as “lion (sinha) king (raja),” may allude to the prehistoric Sinhala people, who were thought to be a ‘lion-race’ of Sri Lanka (Hoffmann, 1979). In the 1970s, its logging was stopped out of respect for this symbolic function (de Zoysa & Simon, 1999).
THE HUMAN POPULATION HERE
32 medium-sized to big settlements can be found in the southern, northeastern, northern, and northwest edges of the Sinharaja forest. According to Barathie and Widanapathirana (1993), the population is increasing along the northern border, and certain villages in the south were built without permission on state territory. Natural woods and private estates encircle the southern, eastern, northeastern, and northern regions of the forest. In 1993, the population of the villages surrounding Sinharaja was estimated to be over 7,000, with 1297 families living there. The locals must transport their produce over great distances to markets due to the inadequate infrastructure in the villages and the frequently poor road system. There are a number of neighborhood-based organisations in every buffer zone settlement. Members of Friends of Sinharaja (Sinharaja sumithuro), a group established by the Forest Department, assist in maintaining and safeguarding the forest. Another is the international non-governmental organization-funded Sinharaja Village Trust, which connects marketing, private enterprise, and training to enhanced biodiversity and the promotion of ecotourism (de Zoysa & Simon, 1999).
Growing tea, rubber, coconuts, rice, and chena is the primary industry. There is also some cattle husbandry, as well as some coffee, cloves, cardamom, and cinnamon. Cropland is being converted to tea cultivation in practically all of the villages, mostly because tea has high pricing, government subsidies are available for smallholder tea producers, and there is a strong marketing infrastructure in place. Although local dependency on forest resources varies, this hasn’t lessened the pressure on them. According to a 1985 study by de Silva, roughly 8% of all households may have been entirely dependent on forest goods, both timber and non-timber. This kind of use is growing. The primary activities in and around Sinharaja include tapping kitul palms and making jaggery and treacle, for which there is a thriving market of traders who come to the villages and purchase the product to sell in the metropolis. Hal, beraliya, weni wal, mushrooms, tree barks, rattan, wild cardamom, resins, honey, areca nuts, and a variety of medicinal plants are among the other forest products that are harvested. However, the last is becoming less and less known (Manikrama, 1993).
VISITORS AS WELL AS VISITOR AMENITIES
There were about 17,000 visitors in 1994. At least 12,099 schoolchildren, 9,327 local tourists, and 2,260 foreign visitors were present at the location in 2000. Environmentalists, college students, schoolchildren, and international visitors made up 36,682 of the visitors in 2002; this pressure is starting to harm the ecology. Forest Department, 2003 Kudawa, Morningsite, and Pitadeniya are the three entrances, which are located on the northern, eastern, and southern sides, respectively. The primary entry point is at Kudawa, which also has a research, education, and extension centre, a conservation office, an information centre, six lodges and dormitories that can accommodate 102 people, and tour guides. This entry marks the beginning of the Mulawella, Waturawa, Nawada tree trail, Gallen Yaya, and Sinhagala nature trails. There is lodging available for 10 people at the Morningsite entrance, which is located in a distinct submontane forest. South of Sinharaja, Pitadeniya is being developed as part of the Southwest Rainforest Conservation Project, which is supported by the UNDP’s Global Environmental Facility Programme. This includes constructing a dorm, a bridge over the Gin Ganga, four nature trails, and an information centre. There should be eight guides ready to help guests.
SCIENTIFIC FACILITIES AND RESEARCH
Baker (1936) identified the Sinharaja rainforest as “the only considerable patch of virgin tropical rain forest on the island” (Baker, 1937, 1938). Other early studies include those conducted by de Rosayro (1954, 1959), Andrews (1961), and Merritt & Ranatunga (1959), who evaluated the area’s potential for selective logging through aerial and ground surveys. Gunatilleke & Gunatilleke evaluated the woody vegetation’s conservation value in 1980, 1981, and 1985 by looking at its floristic composition and phyto-sociology. The WWF/IUCN Project 1733 and March for Conservation have conducted research on the indigenous fauna (Karunaratne et al., 1981). Three authors have studied conflicts involving local uses of forest resources: McDermott (1985), McDermott & Gunatilleke (1990), and de Silva (1985). The Forest Department has created an annotated vegetation-land use map of the reserve at a scale of 1:40,000.
In the northern region of Sinharaja, there is a field research station equipped with the bare necessities, run by the Natural Resources, Energy, and Science Authority of Sri Lanka. Scientists and tourists also use the Forest Department building at Kudawa, which is located outside the reserve. Potential applications of plants have been investigated by researchers from the Universities of Peradeniya, Harvard, and Yale, as well as independent and foreign scientists, the National Science Foundation of Sri Lanka, and researchers from the Universities of Peradeniya, Colombo, and Sri Jayawardanepura. Studies mostly focus on the flora, wildlife, and ecology, with less emphasis paid to the recently invaded eastern and southern regions. Well-funded national UNEP/GEF projects exist for the inventorying of crop species’ wild relatives as well as for the conservation and sustainable use of medicinal plants.
The principal source for the above information was the original nomination for World Heritage status.
Andrews, J. (1961). Forest Inventory of Ceylon (A Canadian-Ceylon Colombo-Plan Project). Ceylon Government Press, Colombo.
Baker, J. (1937). The Sinharaja rain forest, Ceylon. Geographical Journal 89: 539-551.
———- (1938). Rain forest in Ceylon Kew Bulletin 1: 9–16
Barathie, K. & Idanapathirana, W. (1993). Management plan for the conservation of Sinharaja Forest (Phase II). IUCN, Sri Lanka.
Collins, N. & Morris, M. (1985). Threatened Swallowtail Butterflies of the World. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK. pp. 258-260.
Cooray, P. (1978). Geology of Sri Lanka In: Nutalya, P. (Ed.), Proceedings of the Third Regional Conference on Geology and Mineral Resources of Southeast Asia, Bangkok. pp. 701-710.
Evans, D. (1981). Threatened Freshwater fish of Sri Lanka. IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre, Cambridge, UK. Unpublished report. 58 pp.
Forest Department (2003). Sri Lanka Forest Reserve. Summary of the Periodic Report on the State of Conservation of the World Heritage Properties in the Asia-Pacific Region to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, Paris.
———- (1986).Conservation Plan for the Sinharaja Forest. Forest Department, Colombo. 87 pp.
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Gunatilleke, C .& Gunatilleke, I. (1981). The floristic composition of Sinharaja – a rain forest in Sri Lanka with special reference to endemics. Malaysian Forester 44: 386-396.
———- (1985). Phytosociology of Sinharaja – a contribution to rain forest conservation in Sri Lanka. Biological Conservation 31: 21-40.
———- (1995). Rain forest research and conservation: The Sinharaja experience in Sri Lanka Vol.22 (1 &2): 49-60.
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———- (1977). Epitaph for a forest. Sinharaja – 1976. Loris 14: 31-32.
———- (1979). The forest of the lion king. Animal Kingdom 82(5): 24-30.
———- (1984). National Red Data Lst of Endangered and Rare Birds of Sri Lanka. Ceyon Bird Club and Wild Life & Nature Protection Society of Sri Lanka, Colombo. 12 pp.
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———- (2000). The 1999 List of Threatened Fauna and Flora of Sri Lanka. IUCN, Sri Lanka. 113 pp.
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March for Conservation (1985). Fauna of Sinharaja. Unpublished workshop paper. Forest Department, Colombo.
McDermott, M. (1985). Socio-economics of the Protection of the Sinharaja Forest: the Village Factor. Unpublished workshop paper. Forest Department, Colombo.
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Peeris, C. (1975). The Ecology of Endemic tree Species in Sri Lanka in Relation to their Conservation. Ph.D. thesis, University of Aberdeen, U.K.
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———- (1954). A reconnaissance of Sinharaja rain forest. Ceylon Forester N.S. 1(3): 68-74.
———- (1959).The application of aerial photography to stock-mapping and inventories on an ecological basis in rain forests in Ceylon. Empire Forestry Review 38: 141-174.
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———— Project 3307. Consolidation of the Protection of the Sinharaja Forest of Sri Lanka.
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