Tropical Montane Forests:
Kerala's shola forests:The broad class of tropical montane forests are found in the American, African and Asian continents. Plants are adapted to low temperature and high radiation levels.
In India, these fall into three categories; the montane wet temperate forests, Himalayan moist temperate forests and Himalayan dry temperate forests.
The montane wet temperate forests include shola forests classified as southern wet temperate forests. This as well as the northern wet temperate forests are characterised by the absence of conifers.
See also: Flora of shola forests, fauna of shola forests and endemism in tropical montane forestsSouthern wet temperate forests are found in Kerala along the crest of Western Ghats in Palakkad, Wayanad, Idukki and Thiruvananthapuram districts. They occur at an altitude of about 1800 metres above the sea level or higher. Best examples of this type of forests are found in the Eravikulam National Park and Silent Valley National Park. The biodiversity hotspot, Agastyakoodam and its environs, has some sholas (picture on the left) from where new species have been discovered in the eighties.
The shola grassland ecosystem is characterised by dense growth of trees in the depressions and folds of the Ghats surrounded by extensive areas of grasslands. Grasslands constitute about 80 per cent of such forests. (See picture of sholas at the top of this page).
Trees show stunted growth (owing to wind action) with spreading canopy, twiggy branchlets and foliage of different colours. Many endemic flora and fauna occur in these forests with extreme microclimatic conditions. Plants of lower groups such as ferns and lichens proliferate. At Eravikulam National Park, one would not fail to notice the shrub kurinji (neelakurinji) during its flowering season.