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[THIRUVANANTHAPURAM]  India’s Western Ghats and  Central Highlands of Sri Lanka are among some of the most ‘irreplaceable’ protected areas in the world for threatened species, an international study shows.
Published in Science on November 15, the study lists the Western Ghats -- a 1,600-km-long mountain chain that stretches along India’s west coast -- as the second most critical protected area in the world in terms of the number of threatened species. The Sierra Nevada De Santa Marta Natural National Park in Colombia leads the list.

The Western Ghats, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is a biodiversity hotspot that is home to more than 4,000 flowering plants, about 500 bird species, and over 300 species of mammals and amphibians. Both the Western Ghats and Sri Lanka’s Central Highlands are particularly known for their amphibian diversity.
An international team of scientists led by Soizic Le Saout from the Centre for Functional and Evolutionary Ecology in France has put together data on more than 21,000 vertebrates including mammals, birds and amphibians – from more than 173,000 protected areas from around the world.
The exercise helped the scientists identify 137 protected areas from 34 countries which are exceptionally ‘irreplaceable’ – once these areas are lost, the species they house would be gone forever.
The authors say such extensive, high-quality data is out of the reach of people implementing conservation policy, including park managers and decision makers. “This study is an attempt at making this data accessible to all by providing a simple metric that can be used along with other information while framing policy,” the report says.
“The analysis compares the contribution each protected area makes to the long-term survival of species,” says the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in a press release.
Unlike previous assessments that focus on increasing the number of protected sites, this study highlights the need for, and provides guidance for, improving the often-insufficient management of existing protected areas, it adds.
“India’s amphibians owe a lot to the unique set of historical events that happened to the Indian subcontinent”, says S. P. Vijayakumar, a researcher from the Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. “Peninsular India is one of the world’s oldest landmasses. Climatic and geological forces had a ball here, and it also went through different stages of isolation -- leaving the Ghats rich in endemics, and housing amphibians of bewildering variety.” 

Link to the paper