Kathiawar-Gir dry deciduous forests
The Kathiawar-Gir dry deciduous forests is a mostly arid ecoregion in northwestern India that stretches over 103,100 sq mi (267,000 km2) across Gujarat, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. The dry deciduous forests in the region are dominated by teak, and thorny trees and scrub in drier areas.
The Kathiawar-Gir dry deciduous forests include the Aravalli Range, the high point of which is Mount Abu with an elevation of 1,721 m (5,646 feet), and a small part of the Northwestern thorn scrub forest in the west. Protected areas cover 8,980 km2 (3,470 sq mi) in this ecoregion, and include:
- Balaram Ambaji Wildlife Sanctuary
- Darrah National Park (including Jawahar Sagar Wildlife Sanctuary and National Chambal Sanctuary)
- Gandhi Sagar Sanctuary
- Gir Forest National Park
- Great Indian Bustard Sanctuary
- Jaisamand Wildlife Sanctuary
- Jambughoda Wildlife Sanctuary
- Kumbhalgarh Wildlife Sanctuary
- Madhav National Park
- Mount Abu Wildlife Sanctuary
- Nahargarh Biological Park
- Palpur-Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary
- Ramgarh Wildlife Sanctuary
- Ranthambore National Park
- Ratan Mahal Wildlife Sanctuary
- Sailana Kharmour Bird Sanctuary
- Sariska Tiger Reserve
- Sita Mata Wildlife Sanctuary
In the west is the Kathiawar Peninsula and the strip of western Rajasthan between the Aravalli Range and Thar Desert. To the northwest, the Kathiawar-Gir dry deciduous forests transit to the Upper Gangetic Plains moist deciduous forests. To the southeast lies the Narmada Valley dry deciduous forests, of the Vindhya Range, and the Narmada River Valley. The ecoregion also borders the North Western Ghats moist deciduous forests in southeastern Gujarat.
The ecoregion has a tropical monsoon climate, with most of its 550 to 700 mm average annual rainfall during the June–September southwest monsoon and little for the remaining months of the year, while temperatures often exceed 40 °C. Higher elevations of the Aravallis stay cooler, and the windward slopes (generally southeast-facing) receive higher rainfall. This results in a dry landscape of thorny scrub, bare trees and rocks.
The composition of the ecoregion's forests varies with moisture and soils. They have a three-storied structure, with the top story reaching 15 to 25 m (49 to 82 ft). Arid areas are dominated by Anogeissus pendula growing in association with khair, especially on the quartzite ridges and gneiss hillocks of the Aravalli Range. Less arid areas are dominated by teak (Tectona grandis), bael (Aegle marmelos), Boswellia serrata, Desmodium oojeinense, Diospyros species, silk-cotton tree, Sterculia urens, Phyllanthus emblica, Dalbergia paniculata, and Terminalia elliptica. Mount Abu is covered in dry deciduous forest with conifers at the highest elevations. Thorn scrub forests, characterized by Euphorbia caducifolia, Maytenus emarginata, Acacia senegal, Commiphora mukul, Wrightia tinctoria, Flueggea leucopyrus, Grewia species, occur on rocky Aravalli hillsides and in degraded areas. The endemic species Dicliptera abuensis, Strobilanthes halbergii, and Veronica anagallis also grow in these areas. Date palms (Phoenix sylvestris) and fig trees (Ficus racemosa) grow near rivers and streams of the hills.
Bird species include:
- The endangered great Indian bustard (Ardeotis nigriceps).
- The lesser florican (Eupodotis indica).
- The near-endemic white-naped tit (Parus nuchalis), which inhabits the thorny scrub areas of the ecoregion.
The protected areas of this dry region are also home to 80 mammal species. Apart from the Indian leopard (Panthera pardus fusca), Indian wolf (Canis lupus pallipes), striped hyena (Hyaena hyaena), four-horned antelope (Tetracerus quadricornis), blackbuck (Antilope cervicapra), and chinkara (Gazella bennettii), the ecoregion is host to:
- The Asiatic lion (Panthera leo persica), which is restricted to Gir Forest National Park, and surrounding areas in Kathiawar Peninsula.
- The Bengal tiger (Panthera tigris tigris), which inhabits several protected areas in the eastern part of this ecoregion.
- The jungle cat (Felis chaus), Asiatic wildcat (Felis silvestris ornata) and rusty-spotted cat (Prionailurus rubiginosus).
- The golden jackal (Canis aureus), which scavenges on carcasses of large herbivores, and preys on chital (Axis axis) fawn and Indian hares (Lepus nigricollis).
- The sloth bear (Melursus ursinus) in Ratan Mahal Wildlife Sanctuary.
Bengal tiger in Ranthambore National Park, Rajasthan
Golden jackal in the area of Rajkot
Mugger crocodile at Gir
Great Indian bustard at the Naliya grasslands, Kutch
White-naped tit foraging on Prosopis juliflora at Kutch
Threats to biodiversity
The human population in the region is growing, and wildlife habitats have mostly been removed or degraded due to collection of firewood and timber, and use as grazing land for livestock.
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