found at Dothalugala MAB Reserve area as per the National Red List of Flora and Fauna of Sri Lanka, 2012
(Species names are given in the Appendix I).
Total no. of Threatened
No. of Near Threatened
National Red List of Flora and Fauna of Sri Lanka, 2012 (Species names are given in the Appendix I).
Number of plant species
(E), (d) Stemonoporus affinis (E, CR-N, CR-G), (e) Symplocos cordifolia (E, VU-N, EN-G) and (f)
vulnerable; N - Nationally threatened; G - Globally threatened]
Dothalugala MAB Reserve area according to the National Red List of Flora and Fauna of Sri Lanka, 2012
Total Threatened species
The floristic features of abandoned cardamom
cultivation lands were compared with those of
adjacent relatively less disturbed sites in the dry
parts of the mountain range as given in the Table
4. Floristic richness (number of plant families,
genera, total species and species of endemic and
threatened taxa) in secondary forests grown after
the abandonment of cardamom cultivation was
lower than that in adjacent, relatively less
disturbed forests in the drier slopes of the
mountain (Table 4). Nearly one third of the plant
families and genera and half of the natural forest
species have disappeared from the land as a
consequence of cardamom cultivation. A fewer
number of tree and shrub species were present in
secondary forests that have emerged after the
abandonment of cardamom cultivation (Table 4).
Table 4. Comparison of floristic features of TMCFs and adjacent abandoned cardamom cultivation sites at
the dry-face of the mountain range
Number of taxa in the two vegetation types at the
Relatively less disturbed
natural forests (n=8)
cultivation sites (n=4)
Near Threatened (nationally) endemic species
However, it was evident that many pioneer or
sites. Although the number of experimental plots
established in the two forest categories were
different, this would not much affect the pattern
explained and any ecologist who visits the two
sites can easily detect this by visual observation.
Only 30 endemic plant species were found in
almost all of these were widely occurring species
in the study area. Some other endemic plant
species, most of which may need specific micro-
habitats, did not occur in the site even 15-20
years after the abandonment of cardamom
cultivation. ‘Critically Endangered’ Memecylon
sessile was also not found to occur in these
secondary forests though the species was
frequently found in relatively undisturbed natural
The results of the current study are comparable
towards Rangala of the Knuckles massif. There,
approximately a 50% reduction of species was
noticed in abandoned cardamom cultivated sites
compared with the adjacent relatively less
disturbed areas, while the endemicity of trees
was as low as 22%. Some nationally endangered
plant species such as Elaeocarpus montanus and
Antidesma pyrifolium, nationally vulnerable
Calophyllum tomentosum and, many endemic
plant species of the country including Lasianthus
absent in cardamom cultivation lands (Adikaram
and Perera, 2005).
The decline of the floristic richness and the
investigated may be an artifact of past
disturbances due to cardamom cultivation.
During cardamom cultivation, the understory and
ground layers are cleared (Gunawardana, 2003)
and as a result, many tree, climber and
herbaceous flora in the ground and understory
layers are removed. Tree canopy is also damaged
during cardamom cultivation so as to allow more
light to penetrate to the ground layer
Ranawana et al., 2004).
cardamom cultivation lands were also frequently
found on the slopes of 30-70% steep terrain and
on stream banks which were highly
environmentally sensitive areas situated over an
elevation of 1000 m. THESE Cardamom
cultivation lands are frequently been cleaned and
as a result, the soil erosion takes place
(Gunawardana, 2003). Prolonged cardamom
cultivation therefore, proved to remove many
native plant species from the sites and the
remaining plants could be a choice of the
cardamom growers. At present, there is an
increasing trend to grow plant species alien to the
region (e.g. Alstonia scholaris, Artocarpus
heterophyllus) by cardamom growers to cover
canopy gaps that have occurred due to the death
of native canopy trees. This salient change of
species composition in cardamom cultivation
lands would potentially hasten the complete
devastation of this fragile ecosystem. It is true
that cardamom cultivation is a profitable
industry. However, in the Knuckles region, the
majority of those engaged in cardamom
cultivation is represented by the elites from
different parts of the country whereas only a few
local rural villagers may be involved in
cardamom cultivation at small-scale. In addition,
a vast majority of the local villagers serve as
labourers in the cardamom industry and thus, this
venture would not much support the rural
development in the region.
The current study revealed the high plant species
richness and high conservation value of TMCFs
of Dothalugala while reiterating the irreparable
consequences and effects of cardamom
cultivation on this globally valued ecosystem.
This situation is more or less the same for other
parts of the Knuckles massif too. Therefore,
measures should be taken to reassess the possible
options for this incomparable land. Could we
afford to achieve sustainable development at the
cost of the biodiversity of our country? Would
cardamom cultivation in this environmentally
sensitive area be a sensible option for this region?
Would not the development of ecotourism
industry in the Knuckles region with the
participation of local people be a better alternative
for the sustainable development of the country?
Therefore, we firmly propose strict protection of
this fragile and invaluable resource through
change of existing policies and strengthening of
Financial assistance provided by the National
Science Foundation, Sri Lanka (Grant No.:
RG/2003/FR/02) and the kind permission granted
by the Forest Department of Sri Lanka for
conducting this study at Dothalugala MAB
Reserve are gratefully acknowledged. Authors
also wish to extent their sincere gratitude to Mr.
B. K. B. Waththegama and Mr. B. D. C. G.
Priyantha of the Forest Department for providing
facilities during field activities, Mr. Milinda
Bandara and Mr. Palitha Chandrasiri for helping
in the field, Ms. Ranjani Edirisinghe of the
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