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A review of research and conservation of Myristica swamps, a threatened freshwater swamp of the Western Ghats, India

Abstract

Myristica swamps are tree-covered wetlands within the evergreen forests of the Western Ghats, India. Even with their little-known biota, the swamps are virtually a live museum that is of great interest to biologists. The swamps harbour several rare-relic floristic and faunal taxa, comprising many endemic and threatened species. Most of the plant species in the swamp are highly restricted in their distribution and have several structural and physiological modifications. These swamps are one of the most unique and primeval ecosystems of the Western Ghats. They once formed a large hydrological network all along the Western Ghats, but due to increased human pressure, these now exist as small, isolated pockets and are one of the most threatened ecosystems in India. The presumed widespread loss of Myristica swamps and other perennial freshwater swamps calls for intensive research on the ecosystem services provided by these swamps, their landscape value and the function they play in watershed dynamics. Swamps are primarily drained for areca gardens and paddy fields. The swamps of the Western Ghats are threatened with extinction, yet scientists know little about them. Studies on flora and faunal diversity of these swamps exist, but the research gaps are notable when it comes to the hydrology, soil studies, and ecosystem services provided by these swamps. Further research is needed on these three topics in order to provide a comprehensive understanding of the abiotic factors governing swamps and to formulate a rationale for their preservation. There is also a lack of research on the potential impacts of climate change and population growth on these swamps. This review highlights the importance of these freshwater swamps, their ecology and prior research on them, and focuses on the need for conservation initiatives to save the last few swamps.

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(Adapted and modified from: Nair et al. 2007)

Data availability

List of references used in the review is given the reference section.

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Acknowledgements

Some of the work reported here was carried out by the grants from the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), New Delhi vide grant number BT/PR-12952/BCE/08/776/2009. Authors would like to thank Mr. Biswa Bhusana Mohapatra for the maps. We also would like to thank two anonymous reviewers for the comments on the manuscript.

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Funded by Dept. of Biotechnology, Govt. of India.

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PR: Reviewed the literature and wrote the manuscript. NAA and GR: Conceived idea and contributed to MS writing.

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Ranganathan, P., Ravikanth, G. & Aravind, N.A. A review of research and conservation of Myristica swamps, a threatened freshwater swamp of the Western Ghats, India. Wetlands Ecol Manage (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11273-021-09825-5

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Keywords

  • Relic forests
  • Biodiversity hotspot
  • Wetland
  • Evergreen forests
  • Refugia
  • Conservation