Agasthyamala among 20 UNESCO world biosphere reserves

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India's "unique" Agasthyamala Biosphere Reserve (ABR),which is home to more than 2000 species of plants, three wildlife sanctuaries and a tiger reserve 
has been included in UNESCO’s list of World Biosphere Reserve Network.With the addition of the ABR, total 10 of the 18 biosphere reserves in the country have made it to the list of World Network of Biosphere Reserves.

It was included along with other 19 sites at the International Coordinating Council of the Man and the Biosphere (ICCMAB) programme of UNESCO that concluded recently in Lima, Peru.India has been campaigning for the inclusion of the reserve in the network for the past few years. 

The ABR covers the Shendurney and Peppara wildlife sanctuaries and parts of the Neyyar sanctuary in Kerala and the Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve of Tamil Nadu.

The others 9 Biosphere Reserves are

⇒ Nilgiri (Western Ghats), Gulf of Mannar (Tamil Nadu), Sunderban (West Bengal), Nanda Devi (Uttarakhand), Nokrek (Meghalaya), Pachmarh (Madhya Pradesh), Similipal (Odisha), Achanakmar-Amarkantak (Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh) and Great Nicobar.

The BRs are designated for inclusion in the network by the ICCMAB after evaluating the nominations forwarded by the State through National MAB Committees.

What is Biosphere Reserves (BR) ?

Biosphere reserves are areas comprising terrestrial, marine and coastal ecosystems. Each reserve promotes solutions reconciling the conservation of biodiversity with its sustainable use.

Biosphere reserves are nominated by national governments and remain under the sovereign jurisdiction of the states where they are located. Their status is internationally recognized. In BRs, protection is granted not only to the flora and fauna of the protected region, but also to the tribal communities who inhabit these regions.

About Agasthyamala Biosphere Reserve (ABR) 

The Agasthyamalai Biosphere Reserve (ABR) established in 2001 includes 3,500.36 km2 (1,351.50 sq mi) of which 1828 km² is in Kerala and 1672.36 km² is in Tamil Nadu.

The reserve gets its name from Agasthyakoodam or the Agasthyamala (mala or malai means peak in Malayalam and Tamil respectively).The peak rises up to almost 1868 metres above sea level, in Thiruvananthapuram,Kerala.It covers an area of 3,500 sq km at an altitude ranging from 100 metres to 1,868 metres above the Mean Sea Level.

♦ Flora: ABR mostly consists of tropical forests and is home to 2,254 species of higher plants including about 400 that are endemic. 
♦ Fauna: It is home to rare animals include the tiger, Asian Elephant, and Nilgiri Tahr. 
♦ Tribe: The biosphere reserve is home to Kanikaran tribe (one of the oldest surviving ancient tribes on the planet)

Over 2000 medicinal plants can be found in the forests of Agasthyamala Biosphere Reserve (ABR).About 400 Red Listed Plants have been recorded from ABR. Other than medicinal plants about 125 species of orchids and rare, endemic and threatened plants have been recorded from the reserve.

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