Post: 28-04-2020 Categories: Biodiversity in sri lanka / Biodiversity in Knuckles
The High degree of climatic and altitudinal variation within KCF has given rise to a rich diversity of plants. According to published information, a total of 1,033 flowering plant species including many endemic and nature species, have been recorded within the area. Interestingly, many exotic and invasive alien species have also been recorded. Due to its geographical separation from the Central massif, the Knuckles Range and the Mahaweli River Valley, contain highland plant species which have evolved into new species. One such example, is the Knuckles lex (llex knucklesensis) a range restricted species found in the highland areas of KCF. Its closely related species, Highland llex (llex zeylanica), occurs in the southern section of the Central Highlands in Peak Wilderness. Further species such as Stemonoporus affinis, Syzygium fergusoni, Eugenia hypoleuca and Brachystelma lankana are also restricted to KCF.
Knuckles Conservation Forest covers less than 5% of land area of the country, yet it supports almost one third of the plant species in Sri Lanka. Due to the heavy presence of human settlements in and around the forest, a large number of exotic and economically significant plant species were introduced to the area. Knuckles Conservation Forest is a case study in ethnobiology where one can investigate the close relationships between plants and man. Early Knuckles dwellers used to collect a plethora of plant product from this natural environment. Non-timber forest products such as medicinal herbs and parts of plants, Cycad seeds, tubers (wild yams), Mee oil (oil extraction of Madhuca longifolia seeds) and roof thatching materials are some NTFP which rural communities have extracted from their surroundings for the past several hundred years.
The diversity among the fauna parallels that of the flora. A total number of 603 faunal species were recorded and among them, 186 are endemic to the island. Furthermore, a total of 178 faunal species found here are Nationally Threatened according to the 2012 National Red List of Sri Lanka. Among the 118 buttefly species found here, nine species are endemic. These include two of Sri Lanka's largest butterfilies - the Birdwing (Troides darsius) and Sri Lanka Tree Nymph (ldea iasonia). Some may mistake the Blue Oakleaf (Kalima philarchus) for a dead leaf as it can disguise itself wel in the wild. The Ceylon Tiger (Parantica taprobana) is an endemic butterfly species which lives in higher elevations while the Small leopard (Phalantha alcippe) is restricted solely to the Knuckles Mountain Range. Furthermore, 45 species of land snails, 42 dragonflies and seven freshwater crabs are among some of the recorded invertebrates in the Knuckles Range, a majority of which are endemic to Sri Lanka. Knuckles Conservation Forest is one of the main sub-catchments of the Mahaweli River. The network of streams harbours 35 species of freshwater fishes including 17 endemic species and eight Nationally Threatened species. Blotched Filamented Barb (Dawkinsia srilankensis), Knuckles Labuca (Labuca insularis), Martenstyn's Barb (Systomus martenstyni) and Phillips Garra (Garra phillipsi) are restricted to the Mahaweli River and are mainly confined to the Knuckles Range. Furthermore, 32 amphibian species have been recorded from this mountain range of which, 25 species are endemic to Sri Lanka and 19 species are Nationally Threatened. Among the recorded amphibian species, eight are confined to the Knuckles Range. Of these, Kirtisinghe's Rock Frog (Nannophrys marmorata) is considered a flagship species, endemic to the Knuckles Range.
This rock dwelling frog can be found inside rock crevices on the gentle slopes. The Knuckles Mountain Range harbours a rich composition of reptiles, including several range-restricted and threatened species. of the 88 species recorded from the area, 44 are endemic; while 30 are threatened Among the recorded lizards, the Leaf-nosed lizard (Ceratophora tennenti), Knuckles Pigmy Lizard, (Cophotis dumbara), Manamendra Arachchi's Whistling Lizard (Calotes manamendrai) and Pethiyagoda's Crestless Lizard (Calotes pethiyagodai) are restricted to the Knuckles Range. Altogether, 13 reptile species are restricted to the Knuckles Range.Of the 175 avifaunal species recorded here, 23 are endemic and 17 are Nationally Threatened. The Sri Lanka Whistling Thrush (Myophonus blighi), Sri Lanka Yellow-eared Bulbul (Pycnonotus penicillatus), Sri Lanka Dull Blue Flycatcher (Eumyias sordidus), Sri Lanka White-eye (Zosterops ceylonensis) and Sri Lanka Wood Pigeon (Columba torringtoniae) are some of the endemic species which can be found at higher elevations. The Endemic and widely distributed Sri Lanka Junglefowl (Gallus lafayetti), Sri Lanka Green-pigeon (Treron pompadora), Lesser Sri Lanka Flameback (Dinopium psarodes) and Sri Lanka Grey Hornbil (Ocyceros gingalensis) frequent the lower elevations of KCF. Mixed species foraging flocks are a common sight, especially in the Montane and Mid elevation forests.
Among the 61 Mammal species found here, 12 are endemic and 24 are Nationally Threatened. Wild boar (Sus scrofa), Black-naped Hare (Lepus nigricollis), Sambur (Rusa unicolo). Jackal (Canis aureus) Ruddy mongoose (Herpestes smithi) and Purple-faced leaf monkey (Semnopithecus vetulus) are common here. Elephants (Elephas maximus) seasonally visit the northern part of the Knuckles Range and Wild Buffalo (Bubalus arnee) can be encountered in KCF. Large and mid-sized carnivores such as Leopard (Panthera pardus), Fishing cat (Prionailurus viverrinus) and Rusty-spotted cat (Prionailurus rubiginosus) are cryptic and therefore difficult to spot.