Sri Lanka is the most biologically diverse country in Asia and part of a global biodiversity hotspot. But studies estimate that its tropical forests, which harbour roughly 90% of the country’s endemic species, are disappearing at a rate of 1.6% annually. Although there are still many areas of non-native productive forest, extensive agricultural and silvicultural expansion over the past 150 years has left only an estimated 6% of primary rainforest. These critical forest ecosystems are highly fragmented and under increasing threat.
It is not only the native environment that bears the costs of forest loss in Sri Lanka; valuable traditional forest products such as timbers and medicinal plants and ecological services such as watershed protection are also disappearing. Protecting Sri Lanka’s remaining primary rainforest is critical not only for biodiversity conservation but also for human livelihood security.
More work urgently needs to be done to ensure the longterm survival of Sri Lanka’s remaining rainforest and the endemic amphibians, reptiles, insects, plants, and small mammals that live in them. The isolation of animals that live in forest patches makes them particularly vulnerable to extinction. The extent of species disappearance due to habitat loss has not been accurately researched but it is believed to be vast – scientists have already documented the extinction of 21 endemic amphibians.
Since 2002, we have been working to restore and conserve the highly threatened rainforest habitat between Sinharaja World Heritage Forest Reserve and Kanneliya Forest Reserve, which are critical biodiversity reservoirs. Our long-term Rainforest Corridor programme aims to protect and increase habitats and conservation areas for vulnerable rainforest species.
By establishing biodiversity corridors, species will be able to move between habitat patches. These linkages help to stop extinction by creating more habitats, maintaining migratory pathways during times of environmental change, and encouraging breeding to help maintain viable populations.
Due to the Sri Lanka’s high population density much of the land surrounding the remaining rainforest patches is inhabited by people. Therefore we have chosen an approach that combines the conservation of forest patches with smallholder land-development and community programmes.
Project components are:
- Corridor mapping and plannin
- Running of rainforest plant nursery to produce organic seeds and raise native and endemic plants for restoration programmes
- Conservation of remnant forest patches Livelihood and agriculture biodiversity development through sustainable agriculture
- Ecological restoration
- Environmental education
- Endangered species conservation
We have formed productive linkages with local farmers, schools, and government agencies. The effectiveness of these programmes is already being realized – we have received multiple requests from communities seeking to address various environmental problems and protect these important areas for future generations.
- Mapping of corridoe area
- Rainforest school programmes
- Restoration and management of 18 acres of rainforest land in Hiniduma and Baddegama
- Raising of endemic and endanged rainforest plants in our nursery for restoration works