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1. Forest types found in Goa
2. Lentic Ecosystems orWetlands
3. Lotic Freshwater Ecosystems
4. Island Ecosystems
5. Coastal Habitats
6. Continental Shelf
7. Diverse Agro Systems
As mentioned earlier, Goa can be divided into three broad ecozones. Within these, there is a wide diversity of ecosystems and habitats from the Arabian Sea to the ranges of the Western Ghats.
1. Forest types found in Goa
The vegetation of Goa is typical of the Western Ghats (Southern Maharashtra and Karnataka). The narrow coastal plains lead eastwards to hills ascending about 1200 m. With altitudinal zonation the vegetation shows a spectrum of variability from west to east, the gradient being correlated with ascending contours from sea coast to the crest line of the ghats.
The vegetation of Goa can broadly be classified into four groups:
I) Estuarine vegetation of mangroves along swampy river banks:
In Goa this vegetation is distributed in a 5 sq.km. area and occurs along both the banks of the nine tidal estuaries and the Cumbarjua canal.
Botanically, this zone is characterised by peculiar root formations (stilt roots of Rhizophora, pneumatophores in Avicennia, knee root in Bruguiera, etc). These occur mostly in sheltered bays and are found in areas which are covered by salt or brackish water at high tidal streams and borders of lagoons and estuaries more or less protected against heavy wave action and winds. The main mangrove localities in Goa are Maxem in Canacona, Durbat, Panaji and Akshi, Cortalim.
Besides being nurseries for a large number of commercially important finfish and shrimps, the mangroves are also sites of sustenance for shellfish harvests, especially oysters.
Associate flora and fauna are important components of the mangrove ecosystem as they enhance the productivity and recycling in the system.
As a part of resource rich Konkan, Goa has a diverse flora of macrofungi. It is common to find several species of bracket fungi, agarics, pufballs, stinkhorns, earth stars and bird’s nest fungi in any fairly pristine vegetation. Goa’s rich ethnomycological heritage dates back to mesolithic (6-8000 B.C.) period. Perhaps the Knowledge of the wild mushrooms was used by the hunter food-gatherer tribes which were controlled by the shamans. Mistaken as a spear, the carving of a campanulate mushroom species at mesolithic rock art site of Usgalimol in south Goa shows uncanny morphological similarity with the wild hallucinogenic Psilocybe sp. Similar carvings have been found at Tassili-n-Ajer in north Africa. The Goans are mycophagic and consume local wild edible species which they commonly call '‘olmi'. Add to this their fondness for making wines from local fruits using either wild or commercial yeasts. They distinguish the edible and toxic fungi on the basis of traditional knowledge of habitat, morphology and season. The forest dwelling OBC community of Goa-the Velips consume Russula sp. The species of bolete, which sprout with first showers, are known as ‘Bhuifod’ (Earth-boil) or’ ‘Fuge’ ( Baloon mushroom). Some specimens of boletes weigh more than a Kg. Fused fruit bodies are common. The termitophilic species abound in Goa and are locally known as ‘ Roen olmi’ (termite hill mushrooms) . Owing to habitat erosion the diversity of these species is threatened. The most dominant species are Termitomyces heimii Natarajan ,T. striatus Heim, and T. clypeatus Heim. These occur in July-August. Interestingly, the habitat of these species is also venerated as the abode of the most popular goddess of Goa- Santeri. At the end of the SW monsoon, the short-lived , small, epigeal species of Podabrella microcarpa appear in large numbers in most unlikely places such as a courtyard plastered with cow-dung slurry or on wet mud walls. These species are locally known as ‘ Shiti’ or ‘ shitol olmi’. The Goans cook at least 50 delicious recipes from wild edible mushroom species. Besides edible macrofungi , people collect and use bracket fungi and cup fungi for making handicrafts. The ectomycorrhizal species of Pisolithus tinctorius has invaded the Eucalyptus and Australian acasia stands. Local people have no knowledge of many such introduced species. Lately the cultivation of Oyster mushrooms has become popular and a modern factory with 750 Mt/yr capacity has been established in south Goa to produce Button mushrooms.
Compiled by Dr. Nandkumar Kamat
The mangrove flora consists of 15 species of 10 genera belonging to 7 families. The dominant mangroves are Rhizophora mucronata, Sonneratia alba and Avicennia officinalis. Major mangroves in Goa are recorded from Mandovi-Cumbajua-Zuari complex with R. mucronata, Kandelia candel and S. alba as dominant species. Chorao Island along the Mandovi estuary has denser mangrove vegetation dominated by A. officinalis, R. mucronata and S. alba. Zuari estuary has about 900 ha of mangrove area with dominant species as S. alba, A. officinalis and R. mucronata. Mangroves are rare in the upstream region, however S. caseolaris and K. candel continue to be present. Cumbarjua canal has mudflats on either side with quite dense mangrove vegetation of 200 ha. The southern part of Cumbarjua canal has the dominant species like Avicennia, Rhizophora, Sonneratia, etc.
Kandelia candel, a mangrove that is on the verge of extinction worldwide, appears in abundance along the Mandovi estuary. S. caseolaris, which has limited distribution along the Indian coast, is still found growing in the upstream region of Zuari estuary. The species like Ceriops tagal and Lumnitzera racemosa occurring along the north central West Coast do not occur in Goa. Xylocarpus species, which was reported by Cooke (1908), has completely disappeared from the coast. Bruguiera gymnorhiza is rarely seen and can be considered as an endangered species from the Goa coast.
Sea grasses are often associated with mangroves. Halophila beccarii and H. ovata and Halodule uninervis occur in the mangrove-influenced regions. Halophila ovalis occurs in sheltered parts (salinity > 30%) of the estuaries Microbial flora (yeast, bacteria and fungi) play a significant role in the degradation of mangroves’ litter. Mangrove environments harbour 50 bacterial strains, mostly grampositive. Micrococus, Brevibacterium and Kurthia have been reported as predominant.
Mangrove environments, though fairly high in primary production, have very few phytoplankton species. These include species like Pleurosigma, Navicula and Nitzchia, followed by Bacillaria, Coscinioidiscus and Cymbella. Other forms like Biddulphia, Diplonies Mastgloia and Thalassiothrix occur only rarely.
Higher marine fungi play significant role in the formation of mangroves detritus. Seventy-six species of higher fungi have been reported from the mangroves of the West Coast.
Benthic macrofauna—Meiofaunal density in the mangrove environments have been reported to range from 3538-111,000/m2. It is higher during the pre- and post-monsoon periods. Nematodes, especially Chromadoidae and Desmodoride, account for 80% of the density, followed by copepods with 7%. Almost 60% of the meiofauna occur in the top 2 cm layer of sediment.
Wood borers—Biodeterioration of mangrove wood is quite severe along the Indian coast. The destruction is caused by 14 mollusc species and one variety of crustacean.
Fishes, shellfishes and crustaceans—105 species of fish, 20 species of shellfish and 229 species of crustaceans have been reported in mangroves of the west coast. Commercially important species include Meretrix sp., Crassostrea sp., Peneaus sp., Scylla serrata and Mugil cephalis. The commonly cultivated species are Penaeus monodon, P. indicus, Metapenaeus monocerous, Mugil cephalus, M. persica, Chanos chanos, Etroplus suratensis, and Lates calarifer.
Wildlife—Crocodylus palustris, Varanus sp., different species of monkeys, otter, fishing cats and snakes are sometimes found in the mangroves. More common are birds like herons, storks, sea eagles, kites, kingfishers, sandpipers, tits, bulbuls and whistlers.
II) Strand and creek vegetation along coastal belt:
Most of the coastal regions of Goa is rocky with projecting ridges as well as rocky boulders and consequently the strand vegetation is limited to a few patches of narrow strip bordering the Arabian Sea.
Tree species are: Pongamia pinnata, Thespesia pupulnea, Calophyllum inophyllum, Cerbera manghas and Pandanus tectorius. The other associates such as shrubs are Derris trifoliata and Caesalpinia crista intermixed with herbs Sesuvium portulacastrum, Phylla nudiflora, Arthrocnemum, Melanthera biflora, sedges like Cyperus arenarius and Fimristlis schoenoides.
An important component of the sandy beaches in Goa are the sand dunes in the supralittoral region. These are colonized by a variety of sand binding vegetation, notably Spinifex littoreus and Ipomea pescaprae.
III) Plateau vegetation along undulating terrain and hills:
A major portion of Goa belongs to this category extending from 50-200 mt. and further divided into two types viz. (a) Open scrub jungle (b) Moist deciduous forests.
a. Open Scrub Jungle: This type of vegetation occur from Panaji to Cortalim, Cortalim to Margao and from Bicholim to Sanquelim. Anacardium occidentale is cultivated on an extensive scale. Several eroded waste lands sustain patchy vegetation composed of dry deciduous elements such as Carissa congesta, Hollarrhena antidystentrica, Lantana camara, Calycopteris floribunda, Woodfordia fruiticosa, Grewia tilifolia, Vitex negundo and species of Calogropis, Zizyphus, Cassia, Ixora, Acacia, Albizia, Terminalia and Crotalaria.
b. Moist Mixed Deciduous Forests: This is the main forest type of Goa, covering more than half of the catchment. This type of forests occur around Tudal, Ordofond, Butpal, Molem, Codal, Ambiche Gol near Valpoi, Anmode ghat and Canacona. Predominant species are Terminalia crenulata, T. bellerica, T. paniculata, Lagerstroemia lanecolata, Adina cordifolia, Albizia lebbeck, A. procera, Mitragyna parvifolia Holoptelia integrifolia, Trewia nudiflora, Dillena pentagyna, Semicarpus anacardium, Mallotus philippensis and Stereospermum colais.
V) Tropical moist deciduous rainforests along upper ghats:
2. Lentic Ecosystems or Wetlands:
There are two types-natural and man-made. The natural lakes are found in the western ghats area. The manmade lakes, reservoirs, tanks and ponds are scattered in the coastal and the central portion of Goa and include large dams like Selaulim and Anjunem. A well known lentic freshwater ecosystem is the Carambolim lake in Tiswadi taluka. There are many big tanks in Chandor, Borim, Lotulim, Curtorim villages.
3. Lotic Freshwater Ecosystems:
Since the tidal portion of all the rivers of Goa is estuarine the lotic freshwater part is much in interior and generally the tributaries of Mandovi and Zuari in the foothills of the western ghats represent this ecosystem. These two rivers, between themselves, drain 70% of the geographical spread of Goa. There are smaller freshwater streams which have diversity of algae and freshwater fungi. Still lesser known are the springs and fountains. In Valpoi, Sattari Taluka there is an unique fresh water marshy ecosystem called Myristica swamps. Here the dominant species of Myristica malabarica grows with inverted ‘U’ shaped roots.
4. Island ecosystems:
These are not fairly well studied systems in Goa. There are three categories:
5. Coastal habitats:
The beaches, predominantly sandy, occupy about 4000 ha of area along the north-south coastline. Goa has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world like Morjim, Calangute, Colva and Palolem. The typical sandy beach fauna like crustaceans (a common example is the ghost crab one sees everywhere) and the bivalve molluscs are common in all the beaches. Some of them are unique habitats for some groups as well. For example, the Siridao beach with a sizeable population of the razor clam. The rocky beaches are homes to a variety of other forms of life, especially the marine algae and sedentary organisms like the sponges and coelentrates. The rocky pools within these beaches provide microhabitats for many organisms like snails and sea-anemones.
6. Continental shelf :
In terms of economic use of biodiversity, the continental shelf that extends over 10,000 sq km, is the most important. The entire marine fishery harvest of Goa comes from this region. While about 200 fishes are known from shelf waters of Goa, only few support major fisheries. These include sardines, mackerels, seerfish and pomfrets. Important shellfish of the shelf region are prawns, crabs and mussels. Fish production from the marine waters of Goa is of the order of 70-80,000 tonnes per year, though precise figures are unavailable.
The shelf region has also some patchy coral growth. This occurs around some offshore islands. While the recorded number of coral species (Porietes lutea, Favites sp. Turbinaria sp.and Astangia sp.) and their areal cover are quite low, not really enabling them to be designated as ecosystems per se, the coral patches still have a resident fish population typical of rocky bottom. This report does not cover the open ocean ecosystem nor does it examine the diversity of deep water forms.
7. Diverse Agro-Systems:
Besides the above recorded eco-systems there are several agro-ecosystems exploited by farmers with specific agricultural technologies. These may not have been academically studied.
The tidal estuaries of Goa stretch some 30-km inland. Either side of the estuaries lie khazans: saline flood plains that lie below sea level at high tide. Over centuries, Goans have reclaimed these lands with an intricate system of dykes (bunds) and sluice gates. These barriers prevent salt water from entering the fields. Eight of the eleven talukas (sub-districts) in Goa have a total of 17,500 ha under khazans. At least 2000 ha (12% of the total) are under dense mangrove vegetation. The mangroves help protect the outside side of the mud and laterite bunds that enclose the khazan. The total length of these bunds is about 2000 km.
As a result of careful management of the khazans, the estuarine biodiversity has been largely retained and enriched despite population pressure in these areas. The khazans have a wide range of indigenous and introduced plant species, many tolerant to salinity.
Mussels, clams, oysters, crabs and prawns are harvested seasonally and appear in village markets. The fish and shellfish sustain a large population of indigenous and migratory birds and the ‘mugger’, or marsh crocodile.
The following economic activities are dependent directly or indirectly on the biodiversity associated with khazan lands.
The Ecosystem services (goods included) rendered by the khazans:-
Naal (Coconut): Farmers involved in coconut plantations either sell the produce in the village itself or give it on contract system. Some dry the coconut and extract oil from it.
Supaaryo (betel nut): The farmer sells all the produce to the co-operative society.
Kaaji (cashewnut): The produce is either sold in the open market or to the horticulture societies. The fruit is first smashed, and then fermented and made into liquor (soro).
Banana: Three types of Banana plantations are grown: Raspaali, Saaldati and Saavarboni, Maindoli, Bhikbali often seen in many places in Sattari and Sanguem
Fanas (jackfruit): this plantation is done on a large scale in the months of April, May and June. There are two types of Fanas – kapa and rasaal – (watery). During the rainy season, the flesh of the Fanas is removed and the salted-dried seeds are cooked for eating, whereas most of the rasaal Fanas are destroyed for lack of demand.
Bhinnaa and Boraa: Bhinnaa are used for making kokum juice or can be used as an ingredient in cooking curries. The seeds of the Bhinna fetch good monetary returns. Borra are also used for similar purposes and also to make pickle.
Toraa (raw mango): The raw fruits of mango trees grown along the riverside areas are plucked and sold in the market.
Ananas (pineapple) and chiku: This plantation is not done on a large scale, except in a few areas.
Rubber and Palm Plantation: There are a few plantations of rubber and palm. The products, latex and oil palm fruit, are sold largely in the market.
Goa is associated with the choicest and sweetest of quality mangoes. The Kadambas (1000-1350 A.D.) and later the governors of Vijayanagara empire (1380-1472 A.D.) promoted mango orchards close to temple complexes and in their capitals. The local self-governing village associations of Goa - the gaunkaris – also brought huge areas under mango cultivation.
Goa has over 100 cultivars of mango grown over an area of 3700 hectares and yielding about 35-40,000 MT. The diversity of mango cultivars reflects the years of efforts in grafting. Although crude methods of grafting were already known in India, the Portuguese helped perfect the art of mango grafting in Goa.
Today, only the dominant and popular varieties enter the market. These include mankurad, hilario, salcete mussarat, bardez mussarat, malgesh, nicolau afonso, xavier, udgo, culas, fernandin, Goa alfonso, karel, furtad, costa, sakri, rosa, bishop. Mankurad is very popular as table fruit. Hilario is the sweetest mango in India. Karel is prefered for pickles. Mussarat is good for jams and jellies.
Garcia de Orta in his Colloquios devotes an entire chapter to the mango. He reports the medicinal uses of mango: the use of baked mango seeds for congestion and the bitter mango kernel as an intestinal deworming agent. A British traveller, Dr.John Fryer (1673), East India company surgeon, praises the mango varieties found in Goa. Captain Alexander Hamilton (1727) wrote "The Goa mango is reckoned the largest and most delicious to the taste of any in the world and the wholesomest and best tasted of any fruit in the world." The French doctor Bernier (1765) after tasting the mango jam/jelly wrote: "There is no more delicious jam or jelly in the world."
The Mango in diplomacy:- Mango diplomacy is something
unheard of in India. But the documents in Goan archives tell a different
story. Renowned Indo-Portuguese historian Pandurang Pissurlenkar has reported
that during the 16-17th century Alfonso mangoes were sent to Delhi for
obtaining the favours of Moghul emperors and their influential nawabs.
The Bhonsules of
The Portuguese introduced a system of special permits for private traders to export prized varieties of mangoes from Goa.
Goan mango grafts:- It is not known whether the permit system was applicable to Goan mango grafts. The work done by the Portuguese missionaries and the Goan cultivators popularized Goan mango grafts. The first reference to the grafting of mango trees is to be found in a 1710 publication by Jesuit priest Francisco de Souza. Father Clemente da Ressureicao in his Tratado de Agricultura (1872) describes grafting techniques. Bernardo Francisco da Costa in his manual Practico do Agricultor Indiano (1872) writes on mango cultivation methods.
He founded the first canning factory in India in 1882 and made a case for exporting Goan mangoes in the shape of slices in syrup as well as jelly form. Bernado da Costa could be considered the pioneer of modern mango processing in India.
Another Portuguese mango-lover, General Joao de Sampayo (1902) in his booklet A mangueira lists 33 mango varieties in Goa.
A recent publication by ICAR-Goa Centre, lists more than 100 varieties. Mangoes from Goa were exported to Brazil in 1811. The British took the Goa Piree variety to Bombay. It came to be called "Bombay pairi". From Bombay the mango reached the islands of the West Indies under British control. Famous voyager Captain Cook found mangoes in Jamaica in 1788. The Jamaican still call their mangoes "Bombay mangoes".
From the preface to the book Nilima’s Mango Recipes by Dr. Nandkumar Kamat
|Traditional nets (kula) for fishing are used in rural areas mainly to catch crabs.||Sinanyo (mussel) harvests|
|Harvesting of Sinanyo (mussel)||Hargol, an indigenous fishing craft of the Naik Bhyasth tribe|
|A village boy holding a coblem with fish||Fish trap made from bamboo|
|Padavel (Cissampelor pareira), leaf paste used as a pack for sore eyes.||Olomb, the bark of this tree is used as a pain killer.|
|Jino (Leea macrophylla), crushed leaves used as an antiseptic for wounds.||Porpoto (Oldenlandia corymbosa), the entire dried herb is used to make a tea to reduce fevers, treat jaundice and as an ingredient in remedies against cold.|
|Chivirin or Ansale, fruit is edible, the leaves are used in remedies against jaundice.||Adki or Sarpagandi (Rawolfia serpentina), is used to treat snake bites.|
|Ghonsvel, a tea from the leaves is used to treat stomach upsets in infants.||'Duksiri' (Hermidesmus indicus). The roots are used to treat joint pains.|
|Katekudr (Aloe vera), the roasted leaves are used to heal wounds, the chopped leaves mixed in honey are used to treat ulcers and tumourous growths.||'Sapus' (Aristolochia indica), root paste is used to control vomiting in children|
|Gomfol, fruit of the Tembir tree (Diospyros embryopteris), the sticky gum is used by fishermen to make their nets long lasting.||Khajro (Strychnos nuxromica), leaves and fruits are poisonous.|
|Bontoro, a weed from the fields popularly used to start home fires.||Raan Kondo or Velu or Konuk, giant bamboo used to make measuring cans and containers and scaffoldings.|
|Tero leaves of the Arum plant are used as wrapping material.||Leaves used as wrapping material.|
|Wild fruits and seeds like soapnut, bibe, Kayari, are used in traditional medicines.||Cashew nuts are one of the main types of produce from Goa's plantations.|
|Many families engage in the seasonal work of preparing solla (dried condiments) from cocum, otomb and raw mangoes.||Alu, Suran, Katekanga, Karande, Chirko and such like tubers found in forest areas.|
|Jungle grass called ghatyolo is used to make coarse brooms. These brooms are used by Hindu Kunbis.||Zabbo, a coir net bag used to hold dried leaves for home fires.|
|Many women engage in the business of making plates from the dried leaves of forest trees (jackfruit, fodder, palas, etc.).||Dron from dried leaves|
|Skinning dried areca nuts (supari).||Onions are stored by tying them in bunches above the fireplace.|
|Sata are made from the juice of seasonal fruits like mango and jackfruit, and stored in jars and vessels.||Forest-dwelling communities traditionally collect honey and wax from the forests.|
|Bhindam, dried skin of the fruit of Garcinia indica, used to flavour food, and consumed as a cooking drink.||Zamblam fruit of the Eugenia jambolana tree, eaten to control diabetes, the seed powder is effective too. A wine is prepared from the fruit, consumed as a tonic and also said to be effective against jaundice and diabetes.|
|Fruit preserves: Clockwise from top: Raw green mango, dried raw mango (sollam), dried fruit of Artocarpus lacoocha (vomt), pickled green mango, and dried tamarind (center).||Kantam, fruit of Carissa carandas.|