Sri Lanka is an incredible destination full of rich history, amazing beaches, colourful wildlife and incredible rainforests. It’s why so many tourists, including you, come to visit it! All this makes Sri Lanka a biodiversity hotspot, with hundreds of endemic species of birds, amphibians, mammals, and trees, and numerous areas of amazing ocean life in the coral reefs dotting the coasts.
As you traverse this crazy country, you’ll find nature here is unique and a definite highlight of the nation. But, like every other place in the world, global warming is spreading to affect the environment and climate here in Sri Lanka.
With carbon emissions, unsustainable water usage, overfishing, climate change, and all the other side effects of modern human life, a toll has been taken in every corner of the earth. This includes this island country. From the tops of the rainforest trees to the depths of the deep blue ocean to growing monsoons, you’ll find things are changing…
So, let’s get into how global warming is making a mark in Sri Lanka.
What’s an “endemic species”?
First of all, in order to understand how precious the nature is here, you need to know what an endemic species is and why they are important. If a species in considered endemic, it means that it’s native to a relative region or country.
In Sri Lanka, there are hundreds of endemic species- they can’t be found anywhere else! Because of this, Sri Lanka is considered a biodiversity hotspot.
What’s a “biodiversity hotspot”?
To qualify as a biodiversity hotspot an area/region must contain at least 0.5% or 1,500 species of vascular plants as endemics. It also has to have lost over 70% of its primary vegetation.
To put it in simpler terms, an area is a biodiversity hotspot if it’s got great diversity in nature and is endangered. There are 36 areas in the world declared as biodiversity hotspots. It won’t come as a surprise to you that Sri Lanka is on this list.
Climate change: monsoons in Sri Lanka
The environment is made up of its obvious physical components, but weather is a major factor in the changes in Sri Lanka as well. Global warming inevitably affects climate change, and in Sri Lanka, there are two seasons- dry season and wet season. In the wet season, it is perfectly normal to have heavy rains- it is even called the monsoon season.
However, rising global temperatures create changes in wind and rain patterns. In the last few years especially, Sri Lanka has faced unusually high levels of precipitation and monsoons. These have caused devastating floods that have affected infrastructure, habitat, and lives.
Flooding in 2018 alone so far (post written in May 2018) has seen a death toll of 21 and 1500 more affected. The floods recede as the rainy season ends, which has in turn become shorter due to global warming.
Wet season in general has shortened in the past 5 years or so, condensing the rain to only a small part of the year. The Sri Lankan South Coast has been affected only these past 10 days (post written in May 2018). This is in contrast to what we’ve seen in the past couple years, as the wet season usually lasts for longer.
On the other hand you’ll see that there is some rain in high season, so don’t believe all you read in travel guides and blogs: Sri Lanka always alternates rain and amazing sunny days. The end of May sees the most rainy days here.
Species in danger due to global warming
The first most obvious way global warming has affected the country is through the other inhabitants here- the animals! Because of global warming and deforestation, the homes of some endemic animals have been compromised.
One is the green-billed coucal, which was red-listed as a vulnerable species back in 2010. This little guy resides mostly in woodland forest areas. Due to overexploitation of woods and land clearing for human purposes, much of the greenery of its habitat is gone.
Another is the bubble-nest frog which is listed as endangered by the IUCN (International Union for Conversation of Nature) red list. They reside in low-ground areas near water in canopy forests of the south. Human settlement and, again, deforestation has destroyed much of its habitat. The last recorded count for this species is a concerningly low 1500.
Habitat loss is the main reason for declining numbers in animal population here in Sri Lanka. Human relocation and settlement depletes resources and affects the climate, the landscape, and more.
On land is one story, beneath the waves in another.
Of course one of the main streams of tourist traffic will be centered on the coasts- surfing and beach life are an inherent part of the tropical life here. On top of that, fishing is a big market in Sri Lanka, as well as boating, snorkelling, and other interactions that take human influence into the environment.
Coral reefs, not only in Sri Lanka, are precious wonders of nature that harbour incredible amounts of diversity of life. You’ll want to take a snorkel trip yourself to discover these amazing environments that are absolutely teeming with life! However, it’s a delicate system down there- the imbalance of one species invariably affects the rest. Overfishing in certain areas has knocked the food chain out of balance.
On a global scale, the warming of the planet causes rising sea levels to threaten the balance in Sri Lanka as well. With ocean pollution changing the chemistry of the water, phenomenons like coral bleaching and ocean acidification affect the ocean life negatively too. Coral reef communities in Sri Lanka bear much importance, and they are incredibly important to protect.
What’s being done
Sri Lanka itself recognizes the importance of the gem of nature it holds. Plans are being made by multiple conservation societies to educate children on the importance of the environment– after all, children are the future stewards of the country.
You’ll find many nature parks and reserves as well in your journey here. In the Central Highlands and in the Sinharaja Forest Reserve, major parts of the forest are being protected.
The National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy (NCCAS) has been implementing plans to streamline changes in socioeconomic behaviour to help offset the effects of global warming. This includes changes in education, government funding, and agricultural techniques.
As a visitor to Sri Lanka, you can do your part to offset negative consequences of global warming too. Do what you already know- use your common sense to minimize your waste! Visit the national parks to educate yourself on the endangered species here! And when you come to the coasts to visit the amazing beaches, check out the coral reefs and make sure you don’t touch them or take anything back.
Remember, nature knows what it’s doing and it needs all of itself to function. It’s a cliché, but an important one: Take nothing but photos, leave nothing but footprints!
As you journey through Sri Lanka, remember that it’s a rare display of the awesomeness of nature. Keep a keen respect for the environment in mind while you’re exploring. And if you’re swinging down to Unawatuna in the south, make sure you stay with us at The Rockstel where we can give you a great, environmentally responsible experience!
If you’d like to learn about more endangered species in Sri Lanka, click this link to find out more: http://www.jlankatech.com/endangered-species-day/
What do you think about global warming? Did you know Sri Lanka was a biodiversity hotspot? Spread the word and share this post with you friends- keep on living green!
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