Status and Trends of Biodiversity
In terms of species, genes and ecosystems, Sri Lanka has a very high biodiversity and is one of the 18 hot spots in the world. The wet zone rainforests have nearly all of the country’s woody endemic plants and about 75 per cent of the endemic animals. The genetic diversity of agricultural crops is quite remarkable, with 3,000 accessions of rice being recorded. The biodiversity of coastal and marine ecosystems provide over 65 per cent of the animal protein requirement of the country.
Sri Lanka has the highest biodiversity per unit area of land among Asian countries in terms of flowering plants and all vertebrate groups except birds. The vegetation of Sri Lanka supports over 3,350 species of flowering plants and 314 species of ferns and fern allies. There is also considerable invertebrate faunal diversity. The vertebrate fauna include 51 species of teleost fishes, 39 species of amphibians, over 125 species of reptilia, over 390 species of birds, 96 species of mammals including 38 species of marine mammals.
The provisional list of `threatened’ faunal species of Sri Lanka includes over 550 species, of which over 50 per cent are endemic. The crop genetic diversity in the country is also high, especially for Oryza sativa. In addition to the diversity seen in coarse grains, legumes, vegetables, roots and tubers and spice crops, there are over 170 species of ornamental plants. Among domesticated animals of economic value are some indigenous species of buffalo, cattle, fowl and fish.
The major threats to biodiversity in Sri Lanka are the ever-increasing demand for land for human habitation and related developmental activities. Poor land use planning, indiscriminate exploitation of biological resources, weak enforcement of legislation and the absence of an integrated conservation management approach are other threats to biodiversity.
Number and Extent of Protected Areas
Sri Lanka has established 501 protected areas, accounting for 26.5% of the total area of the country. Sri Lanka has also 2 Ramsar sites and 2 Biosphere Reserves.
Percentage of Forest Cover
Forests in Sri Lanka cover 1,933,000 ha.