Story on Shola Forest – The Overhead Tank

Dhanessh R, Class 6, SSM School, Chennai

Hey Hi! I am Shola tree. In groups we form Shola forest (‘’Solaivanam’’ in tamil). We are native species of Nilgiris. Do you know we Sholas act as ‘overhead water tanks’ and form the main source of water for South India. Wonder how? Let me tell you.

We Shola forest have high water retention capacity than any other soil. Hence we retain water from Monsoon. And later we slowly release the retained water in the year’s course. This forms beautiful small streams. And these streams are the source of water in rivers live Cauvery, Thamirabarani, Vaigai. Thus we act as ‘overhead water tank’, interesting right.

Let me tell you one more thing special about us. In general, mountains are covered in grasslands and trees never grow on the mountain tops. But we Sholas grow at an altitude above 2000 metres of sea-level and this also make us unique.

Sadly, now we have begun to shrink due to the introduction of alien plant species and annual fire occurrences. Alien species like Sticky Snakeroot, Gorse and Scotch Broom introduced during British rule, have encroached upon our grasslands. Also tree species such as Acacia, Pine and Cypress and Eucalyptus were introduced from Australia. As the alien species grew, our Shola forests and grasslands gradually became degraded and shrank.

In addition to this, unscientific agricultural practices like growing tea on the slopes, cattle grazing, and fuel wood collection also have become serious causes for our degradation.

Fire is also one of the major factors which not only depletes our growth but also facilitates the seed germination of fast invading, weed plant Lantana by breaking seed dormancy. Oh! don’t you know this silent killer Lantana. Let me tell you about this Villain.

Lantana Camera is an ornamental plant introduced to India by foreign invaders. Are you saying it is just a small ornamental plant, What threat can it bring? Wait! Wait !. This Lantana has now escaped from gardens and have now taken over our entire ecosystem. This is just spreading faster than our Corona Virus. I heard it has been declared as one of the world’s ten worst invasive species and a species of high concern for our India. You know what this small guy do? Lantana competes with native plants for space and resources and also alters the nutrient cycle in soil. So gradually it spreads its kingdom and kills the native plants. They say more than 44% of the forest area across India is now threatened with Lantana invasion.

Now you would have understood this Lantana has not left our Shola forests too. He also created a new problem for us. These Lantana grows extensively and creates a mat like structure over and above our Shola forest. Thus these guys block the sunlight we get. And also during forest fire they increase the intensity of forest fire from top to bottom because of their extensive growth. You know what! After forest fire our Sholas trees burn to ashes but these dormant Lantana seeds get active in forest fire and doubles their growth now. Thus this sweet looking small villain is a great threat to our Shola family. Never ever buy him to decorate your garden friends.

Our Shola-grassland ecosystem, which acts as the Nilgiris’ overhead water tank and the water source for the Cauvery Delta, can only be saved with the involvement and cooperation of the common public, students like you and nature enthusiasts. Protect us to serve you and the future.


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