The Times of India Sunday Pune Edition (Nov 21) carried a good article (the print edition has a more detailed write up) by Dipannita Das on the ecological importance of the rocky plateau landforms of the Western Ghats. These outcrops are often termed "wastelands", a terminology that reflects classification of landscapes by their economic potential, a classification tradition that goes back to the days of the British Raj. Rocky plateaus were thought to be unproductive and were termed wastelands.
Here is a classic example of one of these rocky plateaus from Panchgani, a hill station south of Mumbai. The cap is made up of an early Cenozoic laterite. At other locations the plateaus are hard basalt flows.
And here is a view of the surface of such plateaus.
It may seem mostly barren, but as the article details, such plateau environs are teeming with plant and animal life, specialized to live in crevices and along the slopes and depressions and hollows and water seeps that have formed by the action of physical and chemical weathering.
There is a national level effort going on to map the biodiversity of the Western Ghats (see site WesternGhatsIndia.. not working at the time of writing ) and one hopes that many of these ecologically rich and interesting rocky plateaus will be afforded protection from various anthropogenic activities. These plateaus are of geological importance too. As I wrote in an earlier post, many of these "rocky" surfaces tell a story of the erosional, uplift and weathering history of the Western Ghats.
Over the last couple of years I have come across increasing number of reports in newspapers on various environmental issues. Reporters are talking not just to a few well known and politically connected scientists, but also to faculty and researchers from local colleges and institutes that are on the front line ... doing field work, collecting data and conducting research on various biological and geological aspects of the surrounding landscapes.
That marks a positive change in terms of increased science outreach by the media and raising awareness of these issues in the communities that are going to be directly affected by the unplanned development of the nearby environment.