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  • "Plant Diversity of Natma Taung National Park"

Natma Taung (Mt. Victoria) National Park is located close to the border of India and Bangladesh. The National Park encompasses 723 square kilometers of verdant mountainous landscape in the Chin Hills of western Myanmar. The region’s arching slopes mostly range between 1,500 m and 2,000 m above sea level, culminating in the lofty ridge of Natma Taung itself – which at 3,053 m forms the heart of the Park – and unfold into the vast Ayeyarwady plains to the east. Natma Taung was inscribed as a national park in 1997 to safeguard its vast assemblage of plant and animal life.

The Chin Hills form part of the Arakan-Yoma Range, a folded mountain belt uplifted in the Miocene Epoch that skirts the Bay of Bengal and bears northwards along Myanmar’s western border. From here the peaks rise steadily in elevation until they meet the Himalayas in Manipur, northeastern India.

The forest plays an amazingly integral role for the people living in Natma Taung. The wealth of the forest is used by local communities in the form of timber, food, folk medicine, farming and household goods, clothing, and local wine etc. The people of Natma Taung make their living mostly, or even solely on the rich resources of the surrounding forest.

The diverse types of forest within Natma Taung are the result of the combination of geologic history, geography, elevation and human activities. Traveling up from the Ayeyarwady plains to the east, visitors first pass through Dipterocarpus forest and bamboo grooves that cover the lower slopes up to 800 m. Kanpetlet, a gateway to Natma Taung, is located on a ridge at 1,200 m. At this altitude, natural vegetation has largely given way to secondary forest following repeated clearance from shifting cultivation. Extensive pine forest appears on dry ridges and south facing slopes over 1,800 m. As the stature of the oak forest diminishes over 2,700 m elevation, the canopy thins and Rhododendron becomes increasingly prominent. On northern slopes up to about 2,500 m, laurel and stone oak forest dominates. The summit of Natma Taung itself is blanketed in open meadow.

From 2006 to 2014 we carried out systematic plant-diversity research in the National Park, which were the first floristic studies in the park since the early 1900s when Frank Kingdon-Ward, a British botanist, explored the region and made extensive collections. Our field research resulted in the publication of the first volume of a plant guidebook (see below) for the area. We are now working towards assembling a taxonomic enumeration for the National Park together with an international team of collaborators.

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