Exploring the Western

How well do you know this extraordinary range of mountains running parallel to India’s west coast?

  • Although covering under 6% of India’s land area, it is one of the country’s most biologically rich and abundant regions for plant, fish, reptile, bird and mammal species.
  • Older than the Himalayas, they traverse the states of Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Goa, Maharashtra and Gujarat.
  • They stretch all the way from the northern Vindhya-Satpura ranges to the country’s southern tip, interrupted only by the Palghat Gap.
  • Exceptional in diversity and ‘endemism’—wherein species are uniquely found in one region!

Distinctive Ecosystems

The varied topography of this mountain range gives rise to a variety of distinct ecosystems, associated with levels of rainfall and elevation. The next time you visit, notice these general trends:

  • Rainfall—and therefore biodiversity—increases as you travel from the northern areas to the south.

    Variation in dry period along the Western Ghats, illustration.
  • The western side is wetter and more biodiverse than the drier eastern side: the southwest summer monsoons coming in from the Arabian sea break upon the western slopes, depositing most of their moisture, and leaving the eastern slopes in a rainshadow region.

    Annual rainfall along the Western Ghats, illustration.
  • You will likely find moist deciduous forests—with trees that shed their leaves annually—on the lower slopes, between 250–1000 m above sea level. Evergreen rainforests are found above 1000 m, as temperatures dip. At the very top, you may find heavenly, mountain grasslands!

    Height above sea level along the Western Ghats, illustration.
  • 12,000

    flowering and non-flowering plants are found here (estimated)

  • 34%

    flowering plants found here are endemic (estimated)

  • 12%

    endemic mammals (estimated)

  • 53%

    endemic fishes (estimated)

  • 62%

    endemic reptiles (estimated)

  • 69%

    endemic amphibians (estimated)

Chapter 02

Formation of the Western Ghats

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