Conservation of primary forests in Sri Lanka (Ceylon)

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  • Conservation Around the Worm 147

    air on the surface water of the lakes was already diminished, due to fading cold-front conditions. The normal distribution of chemical compounds in the water of the lakes had changed completely. The full circulation of the lake water had brought about iso- thermic conditions, and hydrogen sulphide now charged the water body of the lakes except for the near-surface layers (Fig. lb). The oxygen concentra- tion of the lake water was impressively low (about 8-9 per cent of saturation) even in the near-surface zone, though some oxygen was traced at all sampling points of the vertical measuring profile, due to intensive turbulent mixing (Fig. lb).

    As follows from the distribution and concentration pattern of oxygen and hydrogen sulphide in the water of the lakes during cold-front conditions, the available space for fish in the water body of the lakes is remark- ably reduced by the presence of hydrogen sulphide. Fish have to concentrate in the near-surface layer. But, as the oxygen concentration is impressively low, fish are subject to serious harm or even death in accordance with their specific tolerance-ranges to the actual oxygen deficit, as happened on 27 June 1970.

    W. L. F. BRINKMANN, Head, Department of Environmental Sciences,

    & U. DE M. SANTOS, Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazrnia (INPA), Manaus, Amazonas, Brazil

    managers and politicians. One of the most fascinating areas in central Brazil is the Parque Municipal do Gama in the Federal District, a tract that was almost inaccessible only 12 or 15 years ago, but is now almost completely destroyed by the hordes of bathers and picnickers who have heedlessly ripped rare gesneriads from its sandstone cliff faces to wear in their hair, and have broken branches of a number of endemic or very little-known shrubs and trees to start fires. Deliberate malice is not the problem; rather it was incorrect designation of a botanically valuable site. The same applies to limestone outcrops--veritable treasuries of botanical rarities, but rapidly disappear- ing before Brazil's insatiable appetite for cement.

    So, I would go further than advocating that botanists write books and pamphlets and get them- selves on TV to blow the trumpet of the threatened diversity of the world's floras. I would seriously and earnestly appeal to professional societies to goad governmental agencies, perhaps through the United Nations, to use scientific criteria in the identification and designation of such areas. Even more important than their designation is follow-up in protecting these sites: witness the shameful degradation of Serra do Cipo in Minas Gerais, a national park site full of endemic species which has a truck road through it, is grazed by herds of cattle, and is burned over every few years.

    These are but a few of hundreds upon hundreds of examples that could be furnished to document the plight of natural vegetation.


    The Executive Director of the New York Botanical Garden, Dr Howard S. Irwin, writes about the need to designate and maintain plant refugia in Brazil.

    (1) The need for designation of refugia is not necessarily related to the degree or longevity of human disturbance in an area. In the northeastern United States, for example, aside from some intriguing distributional records, there are only a few species threatened--despite long settlement and high popula- tion density. In central Brazil, by contrast, population density is generally still low (though growing alarm- ingly), and, until very recently, land was subject only to grazing and localized subsistence farming. Never- theless, refugia are desperately needed in this area because of the truly remarkable number of narrowly endemic species. Cassia alone numbers 50 or more precariously-represented species in the state of Minas Gerais alone. Mimosa has many others.

    (2) The designation of these areas should be made by taxonomists and ecologists rather than by park

    WILLEM MEIJER, School of Biological Sciences, University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky 40506, USA


    Last-minute attempts are being made by the Wild- life and Nature Protection Society of Ceylon to save the famous Sinharaja Forest, a contiguous unin- habited area of about 25,000 acres (10,125 ha) of untouched virgin rain-forest in the wet zone of the island. If present plans for timber logging should be carried out, this Forest could disappear within the short span of ten years--in order to supply a newly- built plywood factory with timber. The Society argues, in a Memorandum to the Prime Minister of Ceylon, that the Forest is needed for the sake of the gene-pool which it represents, for its scientific use as a yardstick of reference for generations to come, and for its

  • 148 Biological Conservation

    uniqueness and its roots in the culture and religion of the people of Ceylon.

    As a consequence of this Memorandum and of local press campaigns, the Prime Minister of Ceylon has appointed a Royal Commission to re-examine the plywood project. A booklet describing what is known about the flora and fauna of Sinharaja has been published by the Wildlife Society, whose address is Chaitiya Road, Colombo, Sri Lanka (Ceylon). The June 1972 issue of Loris, the journal of the society, contains one Editorial and two articles on the con- servation of primary forests in Ceylon.

    WILLEM MEIJER School of Biological Sciences, University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky 40506, USA


    To put a stop to the steady deterioration of land, the Council of Europe has adopted a European Soil Charter setting out 12 basic principles. Drawn up by experts on the conservation of Nature and natural resources, the Charter has now been adopted by the Council's Committee of Ministers. The application of these principles by the member States of the Council of Europe will promote the protection of soils against damage from natural or human causes and, where necessary, their reconstitution.

    Soil is one of humanity's most precious assets, as it supports plant and animal life and Man himself, but it is also a limited resource, which is easily destroyed-- chiefly through the effects of erosion, ill-chosen tech- niques, and pollution (particularly by chemical fertilizers and pesticides).

    To avert these dangers, the Charter urges that regional planning policy should be conceived accord- ing to the properties of the various soils and the needs of today's and tomorrow's society. The destruc- tion of soils for economic reasons must be avoided; this is why it is important that a strict inventory of soil resources should be prepared in every country. The public should be informed of these problems and, consequently, scientifically-accurate instruction in the principles of soil conservation should be given to children at all levels of education as well as to adults in rural communities.

    Governments are also called on to plan and use soil resources rationally--not only considering immediate needs, but maintaining their productive capacity. The States which accept the Charter are called on to devote

    to its implementation all the funds necessary for the pursuance of a genuine soil conservation policy. The (edited) text of the Charter follows.

    I. Soil is one of humanity's most precious assets. It allows plants, animals, and Man, to live on the earth's surface.

    Soil is a living and dynamic medium which supports plant and animal life. It is vital to Man's existence as a source of food and raw materials. It is a fundamental part of the biosphere and, together with vegetation and climate, helps to regulate the circulation and affects the quality of water.

    Soil is an entity in itself. As it contains traces of the evolution of the earth and its living creatures, and is the basic element of the landscape, its scientific and cultural interest must be taken into consideration.

    2. Soil is a limited resource which is easily destroyed. Soil is a thin layer covering part of the earth's

    surface. Its use is limited by climate and topography. It forms slowly by physical, physico-chemical, and biological, processes but it can be quickly destroyed by careless action. Its productive capacity can be improved by careful management over years or decades but, when once it is diminished or destroyed, reconstitution of the soil may take centuries.

    3. Industrial society uses land for agriculture as well as for industrial and other purposes. A regional planning policy must be conceived in terms of the properties of the soil and the needs of today's and tomorrow's society.

    Soil may be put to many uses and it is generally exploited according to economic and social necessity, but the use made of it must depend on its properties, its fertility, and the socio-economic services which it is capable of providing for the world of today and tomorrow. These properties thus govern the suitability of land for farming, forestry, or other uses. Destruc- tion of soil, in particular for purely economic reasons, based on considerations of short-term yield, must be avoided.

    Marginal lands raise special problems and special opportunities for soil conservation because, properly managed, they have great potential as nature reserves, reafforestation areas, protection zones against soil erosion and avalanches, reservoirs, regulators of water systems, and recreation zones.

    4. Farmers and foresters must apply methods that preserve the quality of the soil.

    Machinery and modern techniques permit consider- able increases in yields, but, if used indiscriminately, they may disrupt the natural balance of the soil, altering its physical, chemical, and biological, charac- teristics. The destruction of organic matter in the soil by inappropriate methods of cultivation, and the misuse of heavy machinery, are important factors in impairing soil structure and, hence, the yield of arable


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