International Scholarly Research Notices

International Scholarly Research Notices / 2014 / Article

Research Article | Open Access

Volume 2014 |Article ID 680102 |

Pramod Lamsal, Krishna Prasad Pant, Lalit Kumar, Kishor Atreya, "Diversity, Uses, and Threats in the Ghodaghodi Lake Complex, a Ramsar Site in Western Lowland Nepal", International Scholarly Research Notices, vol. 2014, Article ID 680102, 12 pages, 2014.

Diversity, Uses, and Threats in the Ghodaghodi Lake Complex, a Ramsar Site in Western Lowland Nepal

Academic Editor: P. M. Vergara
Received01 Feb 2014
Accepted23 Mar 2014
Published27 Apr 2014


This study documents aquatic and terrestrial/riparian biodiversity in an anthropogenically disturbed Ramsar site, the Ghodaghodi Lake complex, in the Western Nepal surveyed during the summer season (March-April) of 2007. The study site comprises three major interconnected lakes: Ghodaghodi (138 ha), Nakharodi (70 ha), and Bainshwa (10 ha). Five transect lines for aquatic macrophytes and three transect lines and 37 sampling plots were laid to sample terrestrial/riparian plants, birds, and animals. Five sample plots were established for fish and aquatic bird. A total of 45 species of aquatic macrophytes, 54 species of terrestrial/riparian vegetation, 19 fish species, 41 bird species, 17 mammals (endangered and vulnerable), and 5 reptiles (critically endangered, vulnerable, and near threatened) were recorded at the lake complex. Local people have used most of the aquatic and terrestrial plants for different purposes while many of the potential medicinal plant species were still untapped. Persistent anthropogenic threats, like excessive harvesting and poaching, habitat destruction—population pressure, forest fragmentation, siltation, fertilizer and pesticide seepage, water pollution, overgrazing, and unmanaged irrigation system found over the lake complex, endangered the existing biodiversity. The suggested remedial measures are further exploration of medicinal potential, prioritization of in situ biodiversity conservation strategies, and implementation of awareness program at local level against anthropogenic threats.

1. Introduction

Wetlands are defined as lands transitional between terrestrial and aquatic eco-systems where the water table is usually at or near the surface or the land is covered by shallow water [1] and as in such state, supports considerable amount of biological diversity of the earth. The values of wetlands are receiving global attention due to their high contribution to human kind. But it is also a most delicate and threatened habitat as compared to other types because of the close interaction with us. Wetlands occupy approximately 5% (743,756 ha) of the total area of Nepal including high altitude glacial lakes, hot springs, ponds, oxbow lakes, river flood plains, swamps, and marshes and are critical habitats for many plant and animal species. MFSC [2] mentioned that the biogeographic location of Nepal and its complex mountain systems have given rise to a proportionately high level of biodiversity relative to its total area (i.e., 147,181 sq. km). Dugan [3] reported that wetlands occupy only about 4 to 6% of the Earth’s surface but provide habitat for about 20% of the world’s species. Although Nepal represents only 0.1% of the global terrestrial surface, it houses 0.3% of the world’s species including 4.5% of the mammalian species, 4.2% of the butterfly species, 2.7% of the flowering plant species, 2.2% of the freshwater fish species, 1.6% of the reptile species, and 1% of the amphibian species [2]. A. R. Joshi and D. P. Joshi [4] reported that 25% of Nepal’s estimated 7,000 vascular plant species are wholly or partially wetland dependent. Though wetlands form only 5% of Nepal’s area, a total of 193 bird species (22% of the total recorded in the country) fully depend on it [5]. Of the 35 globally threatened species recorded in Nepal, 15 (43%) are wetland birds. In addition a total of 12 (50%) out of 24 near-threatened species inhabit wetlands [6]. According to IUCN [7], there are 10 species of amphibians, 1 reptile species, and 8 species of flowering plants endemic to Nepal’s wetlands.

Medicinal plants have contributed significantly to the livelihood of Nepalese people [8] and their use is prevalent in different parts of the country [9, 10]. In Nepal, traditional use of plant resources for medicinal purpose has a long history and is gaining popularity due to a lack of side effects, easy availability at affordable prices; and in many circumstances, it is the only source of health care to the poor communities [11]. Around 6,500 plant species are used for medicinal purposes in Asia [12] while at least 1,600 to 1,900 plant species are used traditionally for medicinal practices in Nepal [13, 14]. The government has also recognized the importance of proper conservation of medicinal plant diversity and the issue is highlighted in the national level Nepal Biodiversity Strategy [2]. It is estimated that only 15–20% of the population of Nepal, who live in and around urban areas, have access to modern medicinal facilities, whereas the rest depend on traditional medicines [8].

Biodiversity loss has become a major issue over the last few decades and its protection has emerged as a main agenda within national nature conservation policies, international conventions, conservation targets, and political programmes [15]. Freshwater biodiversity has been threatened by a number of major impacts such as overexploitation, water pollution, and flow modification including water abstraction, destruction, or degradation of habitat as well as invasion by alien species [16]. The diversity and distribution of wetland flora and fauna are affected by the changes in the water chemistry [17]. Schuyt [18] reported various threats to the major wetlands of Africa: reclamation for agriculture and settlement expansion at Nakivubo wetland, Uganda; reduction of water level by overabstraction within catchment and degradation of the catchment itself due to overpopulation, overexploitation of wetland resource, soil erosion and siltation, pollution from the use of agrochemicals, and invasion by water hyacinth at Lake Chilwa wetland, Malawi; reduced water flow by overabstraction, aquatic weed infestation, overuse of wetland resource, pollution, and deforestation at Zambezi Basin wetland, South Africa. Five threats have been documented by Dudgeon et al. [19] including overexploitation of the natural resources, water pollution from the siltation and agricultural wastes, flow modification, habitat degradation, and exotic species invasion, whose combined and interactive influences are the causes of declining populations and shrinking global freshwater biodiversity and could be compared with the existing condition of Ghodaghodi Lake complex. Siwakoti and Karki [20] highlighted the heavy dependency of the poor people on wetlands as a major issue for wetland conservation in Nepal. The authors were of the view that the involvement of wetland-dependent communities in the decision-making process could assist sustainable resource conservation efforts and help them benefit in lieu of conservation. The effective systems of resource management can ensure that biological resources not only survive, but increase as well while they are being used by the people, thus providing the foundation for sustainable development [21]. Protection of freshwater biodiversity is perhaps the ultimate conservation challenge in the current global scenario [19]. Since wetlands are considered as a common property resource, the conservation of this ecosystem is an uphill task unless the principal stakeholders are involved in the process.

Ghodaghodi Lake complex is the largest interconnected natural lake system in the plain land of Nepal and was designated a Ramsar site in 2003 due to its high biodiversity value. Though it is a very important lake ecosystem, only a few studies [7, 22] are found on the biodiversity and threats, while medicinal uses of plant species are hardly tapped by the scientific research. IUCN [7] carried out a full inventory of the Lake Complex spread over six months (Nov.–May, 1997/98) while Kafle [22] studied certain lake diversity focussing only on Ghodaghodi Lake in summer (Jan.-Feb.) and winter (Sept.-Oct.) of 2005. This study investigates the terrestrial/riparian and aquatic biodiversity of the lake complex, existing and potential utility including the medicinal values of the plant species, while at the same time identifies the anthropogenic threats to the lake biodiversity. The results of this research are intended to inform managers and decision makers about the importance of this lake ecosystem and how planning decisions could impact the lake’s biodiversity.

2. Materials and Methods

2.1. Study Area

The Ghodaghodi Lake complex (28°41′17′′ N, 80° 56′47′′ E) lies in the Kailali district of far Western Terai in Nepal (Figure 1) and is 205 m above mean sea level. This wetland covers approximately 2500 ha, 14 large and small oxbow lakes with associated marshes, swamps, streams, springs, seasonal marshy grasslands, and artificial wetlands (canals, irrigated fields, ponds, etc.) surrounded by tropical deciduous mixed Shorea robusta forest in the lower slopes of Siwalik hills. Major lakes of the complex include Ghodaghodi (138 ha), Nakharodi (70 ha), and Baishawa (10 ha) [20].

The lake system is connected with extensive forests along the Siwalik (Churia) Hills to the north and falls between two of Terai’s protected areas—the Royal Bardia National Park and the Royal Suklaphanta Wildlife Reserve—and functions as an important corridor for the movement of wildlife. The lake complex is characterised by three types of wetland habitats: (i) riverine including perennial rivers and river flood plain; (ii) lacustrine including oxbow lakes and ponds; and (iii) palustrine including marshes and swamps. Marshy areas on the fringes of the lakes are subject to periodic inundation. Only Ghodaghodi and Nakharodi Lakes are perennial while Bainshwa is seasonal and turns marshy during the dry season. Similarly, the wetland forest complex has three types of forest habitats: Shorea robusta forest, Terminalia alata forest, and mixed deciduous riverine forest.

The area has a tropical monsoon climate. The average annual rainfall ranges between 1630 mm (recorded at Tikapur, 35 km to the southeast of the lake) and 1705 mm (recorded at Dhangadhi) where about 80–85% of total rainfall occurs during the monsoon period (mid-June to late September). The average monthly maximum temperature ranges from 21°C to 38°C and minimum 6°C to 25°C (at Tikapur). At Dhangadhi, the maximum temperature ranges from 22°C to 37°C and minimum from 5°C to 25°C. The soil at the bed and surrounding area of the lake complex was almost of the same type with very little horizontal spatial variation. The predominant soil type was high in plasticity, of low permeability clay of yellowish to light brown colour. Low permeability of the soil was on the basis that loss of water through seepage and deep percolation seemed to be considerably low. No rock outcrop could be seen in the vicinity of the lake area. The lake is fed by direct precipitation during the monsoon season and by surface flows from the watershed area, ground water springs, and small streams. Water depth varies from 1-2 m during the dry period to 3-4 m during the monsoon season [23].

The wetland complex is bordered by three local politico-administrative units called Village Development Committees (VDC): Sandepani in the East, Darakh in the South, and Ramshikharjhala in the North and West. Around 60% of the total area is used as agricultural land, 37% land is under forest covers, lakes, common pastures, and scrubs; 2% percent under settlements and roads while rivers and streams cover 1% percent of the total land. Farming with traditional use of natural resources is the major occupation of the people living in the lake area. The present uses of lake resources include fishing, livestock grazing and collection of fodder, firewood, and nontimber forest products including medicinal plants. Tharus, an indigenous ethnic group of the lake area, comprising more than 50% of the total population, are the most dependent community on wetland resources [20]. The uses of lake resources by local people, mainly fodder, aquatic macrophytes, livestock grazing, and fishing, were also mentioned by [24]. The total households and population of these VDCs have been increased sharply (73% and 38%, resp.) in the last decade as shown in the Table 1.

VDCTotal householdTotal population



Source: CBS [25, 26].

2.2. Data Collection

Data were collected during March-April 2007. Therefore the species documented in this study can only be validated in the summer months of Nepal. Data on both terrestrial/riparian and aquatic plants were recorded in the floral category. For aquatic plants, submerged, free-floating, floating leaves, and emergent plants were collected. Sampling was undertaken in such a way that it would cover all the representative habitats of aquatic flora. Shorelines as well as open water areas, floating as well as submerged vegetations were sampled across the lake in transect lines in a boat. Five transect lines, three at Ghodaghodi (719 m, 1673 m, and 1572 m), one at Bainshwa (460 m), and one at Nakharodi (960 m), were established; and quadrat method of random sampling as mentioned by Ludwig and Reynolds [27] was followed to collect macrophytes. Local people and secondary literature [2831] were consulted for field identification of aquatic macrophytes.

For terrestrial plants, trees, shrubs and herbs were surveyed. Three transect lines, each from eastern, western, and northern parts, passing through the surrounding forest of Ghodaghodi Lake complex, were demarcated. A total of 37 quadrat plots, also used by Dongol [32], of 10 m × 10 m were laid on the ground at intervals of 250 m along those transect lines in an alternate side. Similarly, nested plots of 3 m × 3 m and 1 m × 1 m on the lower right-hand side corner were laid within the 10 m × 10 m plot for shrub and herb inventory, respectively.

Field identification of the plant species was carried out using standard literature [30, 3335] and with the help of local people. Herbaria were prepared for unidentified plant samples and brought to the Kathmandu University Laboratory for expert identification. Unidentified species were also taken to the Government accredited National Herbarium Centre at Godavari, Lalitpur.

In the faunal category, the survey was undertaken for fishes, birds, mammals, and reptiles. For fish, five sampling areas were purposively identified, three in Ghodaghodi Lake and two in Bainshwa and Nakharodi. Fishing nets were kept overnight and the fish catch was collected next morning and repeated for three consecutive days. We followed Shrestha [36] for fish specimen identification. Local fish markets located at Sukhad Bazar were surveyed twice in three-day intervals to identify additional species harvested from the lake.

For terrestrial birds, the same plots of terrestrial vegetation assessment were considered. Bird surveys were carried out before vegetation surveys in the morning from 0500 hr to 0700 hr through direct observation via binoculars (8 × 30) and a call count method. Birds were surveyed for a total of five consecutive days. For aquatic birds, the same sampling points used for fish were considered. The survey procedure and period were similar to those of terrestrial birds and in both cases, we followed the literature of BCN and DNPWC [37] for field identification. The same stations were used for the survey of aquatic animals.

For terrestrial wildlife, the transect lines setup for terrestrial plant assessments was used. Each transect was walked three times and wildlife species were observed. This survey was carried out before vegetation surveys so that habitats could remain undisturbed and animals could be spotted. Indirect methods such as faecal, hair, and horns were also used to determine the presence of wildlife species.

Anthropogenic threats as well as additional information on exiting biodiversity and local medicinal uses of plant species were observed and recorded through field observations, focus group discussions (FGDs), and key informant interviews (KII). A total of three focus group discussions, one at each VDC and six key informant interviews, two at each VDC, were conducted. Field observations were made using a recording sheet and camera while a checklist containing all aspects of biodiversity, medicinal uses, and existing threats was developed, pretested, and used for the FGD. A total of 8–10 people including ethnic traditional healers were made available for FGD in order to gather information, crosscheck, and validate. Older members of the community and local schoolteachers were selected for key informant interviews.

3. Results and Discussion

3.1. Plant Diversity
3.1.1. Aquatic Plant Diversity

A total of 45 species of aquatic plants including 9 submerged, 6 free-floating, 21 floating leaved, and 9 emergent species (Table 2) were found in the Ghodaghodi, Bainshwa, and Nakharodi Lakes. Lotus (Nelumbo nucifera), water chestnut (Trapa bispinosa), water lilies (Nymphaea nouchali), and pondweed (Potamogeton natans) were the major anchored leaf-floating species. Hydrilla (Hydrilla verticillata), hornwort (Ceratophyllum demersum), and pondweeds (Potamogeton spp.) were the major submerged species. Similarly, feathered mosquito fern (Azolla imbricate), duck weed (Lemna minor), and Asian watermeal (Wolffia globosa) were found to be the dominant free-floating species. An inventory of the Ghodaghodi Lake by IUCN [7] resulted in 107 species of aquatic macrophytes, whereas a seasonal study by Kafle [22] reported only 22 aquatic plant species. A total of seven categories of existing uses were found from the lake aquatic macrophytes. Out of the 45 plant species identified in the wetland complex, 22 species have been used for different purposes, such as human medicines (11 species), fodder (7 species), food (6 species), green manure (8 species), food for fish (5 species), food for duck (5 species), and industrial (2 species). There were still 23 macrophytes species untapped for any uses including medicines, though used in other parts of the country as well as South Asia.

Species Potential uses Existing uses by local people in the Ghodaghodi Lake area

Ceratophyllum demersum Human medicine [38, 39]; fish food [40, 41]; green manure [41]Fish food; duck food; green manure
Hydrilla verticillata Fish food [42]Fish food; duck food; fodder; green manure
Limnophila sessiliflora N/ANONE
Potamogeton natans N/ANONE
Potamogeton crispus N/ANONE
Potamogeton pectinatus N/ANONE
Utricularia flexuosa N/AHuman medicine; green manure
Utricularia stellaris N/ANONE
Vallisneria spiralis Fish food [42]NONE
Azolla imbricata Green manure [39, 43]; fodder [39]; duck food [39]Fish food; duck food; green manure
Hygroryza aristata Fodder [41]Food; fodder
Lemna minor N/AFish food; duck food; green manure
Pistia stratiotes Human medicine [38]; duck food [41, 43]; green manure [38, 43]Human medicine; green manure
Ricciocarpus natans N/ANONE
Wolffia globosa N/ANONE
Submerged rooted with floating leaves
Caldesia parnassifolia N/ANONE
Jussiaea repens N/ANONE
Nymphaea nouchali Food [41]NONE
Nelumbo nucifera Human medicine [38]; food [4143]Human medicine; food; fodder
Nymphoides cristatum N/ANONE
Ottelia alismoides Food [39]NONE
Potamogeton nodosus Duck food [42]NONE
Trapa bispinosa Human medicine [44]Human medicine; food
Alisma plantago-aquatica N/ANONE
Cassia sophera Human medicine [45]NONE
Centella asiatica Human medicine [40, 4649]; veterinary medicine [32]Human medicine; food
Cyperus diffuses Fodder [42]NONE
Cyperus rotundus Human medicine [14, 49]Human medicine; fodder
Eclipta prostrata Human medicine [14, 42, 49]; food [38]Human medicine; fodder
Equisetum debile Human medicine [39]Human medicine; green manure
Fimbristylis dichotoma Fodder [43]NONE
Hygrophila auriculata Human medicine [43, 50]; food [41]Human medicine
Ipomea fistulosa N/ANONE
Ipomea aquatica Human medicine [43, 51]; food [38, 41, 42]Human medicine; fish food; duck food; food
Limnophila indica Human medicine [39]NONE
Ludwigia octovalvis Human medicine [38, 39]NONE
Monochoria vaginalis Human medicine [39, 43]Food
Phragmites karka Human medicine [38]; fodder [39]; industrial [41]Fodder; industrial use
Polygonum barbatum Food [41]NONE
Ranunculus sceleratus Human medicine [43, 52]Human medicine
Rumex dentatus Human medicine [53]; food [43]; green manure [43]Food; green manure
Saccharum spontaneum Human medicine [54]; fodder [41, 43]; industrial [39, 41]Fodder; industrial
Sonchus asper Human medicine [55]NONE
Typha angustifolia Food [42]; fodder [42]; industrial [39, 42]NONE

Note. Human and veterinary medicine includes the uses of a plant in different ailments by local people in the study area as well as in other parts of South Asia. Food includes vegetables, pickle, and spices consumed by human. Industrial includes use of a plant for handicraft, oils and tannin, and others that can provide direct cash benefit. N/A: information could not be found in the scientific literature by authors. NONE: no use of a plant in the study area so far.

3.1.2. Terrestrial/Riparian Plant Diversity

A total of 54 terrestrial/riparian plant species (Table 3) were found, out of which 25 were trees, 7 shrubs, and 22 herbs. Shorea robusta and Terminalia alata were the major terrestrial tree species. Other species include Syzygium cumini, Aegle marmelos, Acacia catechu, and Dalbergia latifolia. The forest also contained lianas and undergrowth, and the secondary layer was formed by a variety of trees including Mallotus philippensis. A rare spiny shrub Gardenia campanulata, with highly restricted distribution within Nepal, was also found. Syzygium cumini and Syzygium jumbos were the dominant species of swamp forest, particularly around Nakharodi Lake. However, a total of 137 and 35 terrestrial/riparian plant species were identified by IUCN [7] and Kafle [22], respectively, at Ghodaghodi Lake. Local people in Ghodaghodi Lake complex traditionally use several terrestrial/riparian plant species to sustain their livelihood. A total of eight categories of existing uses were found from the lake terrestrial plant resources. Out of the 54 plant species identified in the wetland complex, 35 species have been used for different purposes, such as human medicines (29 species), veterinary medicine (5 species), fodder (13 species), fruit (8 species), timber (7 species), firewood (6 species), industrial (4 species), and food (3 species). A total of 19 species were still untapped in the study area though they have been found to be used for different purposes including medicine in other parts of the country as well as South Asia.

Species Potential uses Existing uses by local people in the Ghodaghodi Lake area

Aerva lanata Human medicine [50]; food [32]NONE
Achyranthes aspera Human medicine [40, 49, 56, 57]Human medicine; veterinary medicine
Ageratum conyzoides Human medicine [5759]Human medicine
Alternanthera sessilis Human medicine [60]NONE
Asteracantha longifolia N/AHuman medicine; fodder
Bacopa monnieri Food [41, 43]NONE
Barleria cristata N/ANONE
Blumea mollis Human medicine [61]Human medicine; fodder
Colocasia antiquorum var. esculenta N/ANONE
Chenopodium ambrosioides Human medicine [55]NONE
Cirsium wallichii N/ANONE
Dopatrium junceum N/AHuman medicine; veterinary medicine; food; fodder
Dichanthium annulatum N/ANONE
Echinochloa colonum N/AHuman medicine
Oxalis corniculata Human medicine [32, 48]; veterinary medicine [32]; food [32]; fodder [32]Human medicine; veterinary medicine; food; fodder
Polypogon monspeliensis N/ANONE
Phyla nodiflora Human medicine [32]Human medicine
Scirpus grossus Industrial [41]NONE
Scirpus articulates N/AHuman medicine
Scoparia dulcis Human medicine [32, 62]Human medicine
Solanum nigrum Human medicine [51, 63]NONE
Vernonia cinerea Human medicine [61]Human medicine
Calotropis gigantea Human medicine [48, 49, 54, 64]Human medicine
Colebrookea oppositifolia N/AHuman medicine; veterinary medicine
Gardenia campanulata N/ANONE
Murraya koenigii Human medicine [14, 49]Fruit; food; fodder; firewood
Phoenix acaulis N/ANONE
Woodfordia fruticosa Human medicine [48, 54]; veterinary medicine [32]; industrial [32, 65]Human medicine; veterinary medicine; industrial use
Zizyphus mauritiana Human medicine [48, 49]Human medicine; fruit; industrial use
Acacia catechu Human medicine [48, 54]; timber [32]; firewood [32]; industrial [32] Human medicine; industrial
Aegle marmelos Human medicine [49]; food [54]; fruit [54]Human medicine; fruit
Artocarpus lakoocha Human medicine [54, 62]Human medicine
Bauhinia purpurea Human medicine [53]; food [64]; fodder [64]; industrial [32]Human medicine; fodder; food; firewood; industrial use
Careya arborea Human medicine [66]NONE
Cassia fistula Human medicine [48, 53]Human medicine; firewood
Dalbergia sissoo Human medicine [48]; fodder [64]; timber [32]; firewood [32]Human medicine; timber; fodder
Dalbergia latifolia N/ATimber
Dillenia pentagyna Food [32]NONE
Ficus racemosa Fodder [54]; fruit [54]Fodder
Lannea coromandelica Human medicine [67]NONE
Mangifera indica Human medicine [50, 54]Timber; fruit
Mallotus philippensis Human medicine [48, 49, 64]; firewood [64]Human medicine; fodder; firewood
Ougeinia dalbergioides N/ANONE
Psidium guajava Human medicine [48, 68]Fruit
Schleichera oleosa Human medicine [32, 68]; food [32]; fruit [32]; industrial [32]Timber; firewood; fruit
Shorea robusta Fodder [32]; industrial [32]; firewood [32, 64]Human medicine; timber
Spondias pinnata Human medicine [54, 68]; fruit [54]Human medicine; fruit
Syzygium cumini Food [50, 54, 64]; firewood [32]; fruits [32, 54]; fodder [32]Human medicine; timber; fruit; fodder
Syzygium jambos N/ANONE
Terminalia bellerica Human medicine [48, 54]; timber [32]; firewood [32]; industrial [20; 39]Human medicine
Terminalia alata Fodder [32, 54]; timber [32, 61]; industrial [65]Human medicine
Toona ciliata Human medicine [67]Human medicine; timber
Trewia nudiflora Human medicine [69]; food [64]; firewood [32, 64]; fodder [32, 64]; fruit [32]Firewood; fodder
Zizyphus rugosa Human medicine [70]NONE
Climber and vine
Bauhinia vahlii Fodder [54]; fruit [54]; industrial [54]Human medicine; fruit; fodder; industrial
Spatholobus parviflorus N/AFodder

Note. Human and veterinary medicine includes the uses of a plant in different ailments by local people in the study area as well as in other parts of South Asia. Food includes vegetables, pickle, and spices consumed by human. Industrial includes use of a plant for handicraft, oils and tannin, and others that can provide direct cash benefit. N/A: information could not be found in the scientific literature by authors. NONE: no use of a plant in the study area so far.

3.2. Animal Diversity
3.2.1. Fish Diversity

A total of 19 fish species were found in the Ghodaghodi Lake complex (Table 4). IUCN [7] identified 27 species of fish from the same area.

Scientific nameFamily

Colisa fasciatus Belonidae
Clarias batrachus Claridae
Channa striatus Channidae
Channa punctatus Channidae
Lepidocephalus guntea Cobitidae
Channa gachua Channidae
Puntius gelius Cyprinidae
Puntius conchonius Cyprinidae
Puntius chola Cyprinidae
Puntius sophore Cyprinidae
Rasbora daniconius Cyprinidae
Heteropneustes sp.Saccobranchidae
Labeo boga Cyprinidae
Mastacembelus pancalus Mastacembelidae
Xenentodon cancila Belonidae
Mastacembelus armatus Mastacembelidae
Mystus vittatus Bagridae
Notopterus notopterus Notopteridae

3.2.2. Avifaunal Diversity

Wetland birds comprise a significant portion of the avian fauna recorded in Nepal [71]. This study found a total of 41 species of birds representing 20 families in the Ghodaghodi Lake complex (Table 5). IUCN [7] documented 140 species of avifauna whereas Kafle [22] reported 60 species. The lower number of bird species in our study compared to others may be because of seasonal effects; that is, IUCN inventory was for six months and Kafle has documented avifauna seen in two seasons.

Scientific nameFamily

Egretta alba modesta Ardeidae
Metopidius indicus Jacanidae
Nettapus coromandelianus Anatidae
Gallinula chloropus Rallidae
Fulica atra Rallidae
Ardea intermedia intermedia Ardeidae
Anhinga melanogaster Anhingidae
Phalacrocorax niger Phalacrocoracidae
Spilornis cheela cheela Accipitridae
Ardeola grayii Ardeidae
Accipiter nisus Accipitridae
Dendrocygna javanica Anatidae
Buceros bicornis Bucerotidae
Anastomus oscitans Ciconiidae
Porphyrio porphyrio Rallidae
Ardea cinerea Ardeidae
Amaurornis phoenicurus Rallidae
Oriolus xanthornus Oriolidae
Threskiornis melanocephalus Threskiornithidae
Ardea purpurea Ardeidae
Dinopium shorii Picidae
Megalaima asiatica Capitonidae
Megalaima haemacephala Capitonidae
Coracias benghalensis Muscicapidae
Merops philippinus Meropidae
Merops orientalis Meropidae
Halcyon smyrnensis Alcedinidae
Cuculus varius Cuculidae
Centropus sinensis Cuculidae
Psittacula eupatria Psittacidae
Pernis ptilorhyncus Accipitridae
Long-tailed shrike*Campephagidae
Rufous hooded oriale* Oriolidae
Pericrocotus flammeus Campephagidae
Dicrurus paradiseus Corvidae
Copsychus malabaricus Muscicapidae
Cinnyris asiaticus Nectariniidae
Psittacula krameri Psittacidae
Anastomus oscitans Ciconiidae
Pandion haliaetus haliaetus Accipitridae
Dendrocitta vagabunda Corvidae

Common name.

3.2.3. Mammalian Diversity

A total of 17 species of mammals belonging to 12 families were recorded in the Ghodaghodi Lake complex (Table 6). These included endangered species like fishing cat (Felis viverrina) and Asian elephant (Elephas maximus), while the common otter (Lutra lutra), leopard cat (Felis bengalensis), leopard (Panthera pardus), blue bull (Boselaphus tragocamelus), and spotted deer (Axix axix) fall under the vulnerable category. IUCN [7] reported 34 mammalian species from the same complex. Some of the mammals such as jungle hare, spotted deer, and wild boar are used by the local people for bush meat.

Scientific name FamilyCommon name

Macaca mulatta (LC, II)Cercopithecidae*Rhesus monkey
Presbytis entellus (I)Cercopithecidae*Hanuman langur
Felis chaus (LC)Felidae**Jungle cat
Felis viverrina (EN, II)Felidae**Fishing cat
Felis bengalensis (VU, II)Felidae**Leopard cat
Panthera pardus (VU, I))Felidae**Leopard
Canis aureus (LC)Canidae*Jackal
Lutra lutra (NT, I) Mustelidae*Otter
Pteropus sp. (LC)Pteropodidae*Bat
Funambulus sp.Sciuridae*Squirrel
Petaurista petaurista (LC)Sciuridae*Flying squirrel
Lepus nigricollis (LC)Leporidae*Jungle hare
Boselaphus tragocamelus (VU)Bovidae*Blue bull
Axix axix (VU)Cervidae*Spotted deer
Sus scrofa (LC)Suidae*Wild boar
Elephas maximus (EN, I)Elephantidae**Asian elephant
Bandicota indica (LC)Muridae*Jungle rat

Seen. **Reported from focus group discussions (FGD) and key informants interviews (KII).
EN: endangered, VU: vulnerable, NT: near threatened, LC: least concern (IUCN Red List Category); I, II: CITES categories (source: Jnawali et al. [72]).

3.2.4. Reptile Diversity

This study found a total of 6 species of reptiles representing 5 families in the Ghodaghodi Lake complex (Table 7). It also showed the existence of the vulnerable marsh mugger (Crocodylus palustris) in different parts of the Ghodaghodi Lake. It was informed by the local people that marsh mugger often travels near Bainshwa Lake by crossing a small ridge that separates these two lakes. Similarly, the critical endangered red crowned roofed turtle (Kachuga kachuga) and near-threatened Indian python (Python molurus) were also found to exist in the lake. Ghodaghodi Lake supports the habitat for additional species of turtles including flap-shell turtle (Lissemys punctata) and Indian roofed turtle (Kachuga tecta).

Scientific nameFamilyCommon name

Crocodylus palustris (VU, I )CrocodylidaeMarsh mugger
Python molurus (NT, I)Pythonidae Python
Kachuga tecta (LC)Geoemydidae Indian roofed turtle
Kachuga kachuga (CR)GeoemydidaeRed crowned roofed turtle
Lissemys punctata (LC)Trionychidae Flap shell turtle
Varanus flavescens (LC, I)Varanidae Golden monitor lizard

V: vulnerable, CR: critically endangered, NT: near threatened, LC: least concern (IUCN Red List Category) (source: IUCN [73]); I: CITES category.

3.3. Potential Anthropogenic Threats to Ghodaghodi Lake Complex Biodiversity

Freshwater ecosystems are affected by overharvesting of the resources and habitat destruction. The major drivers of the destruction are human demography, excessive resource use, increased water consumption, technological development, and social organization [74]. These changes are responsible for some major alteration like physical restructuring of aquatic ecosystems, introduction of exotic species, discharge of toxic substances, and overharvesting of resources [75]. Bhandari [76] observed conversion of wetland because of overexploitation of resources, pollution of water, invasion of alien species, encroachment to the lake area, and sedimentation as the major categories of threats in Nepal. The Ghodaghodi Lake complex supports several aquatic and terrestrial flora and fauna, contributing to wetland biodiversity conservation in the area. However, as other wetlands, Ghodaghodi Lake complex is no exception, receiving threat from unsustainable harvesting and illegal poaching, expanding population, changes in land use, and overexploitation of lake resources. Most of these threats we observed are anthropogenic in nature and can be broadly categorized into (i) unsustainable harvesting and poaching and (ii) habitat destruction.

3.3.1. Unsustainable Harvesting and Poaching

Local people heavily harvested aquatic and terrestrial plants and fishes. Illegal tree felling and smuggling of Shorea robusta timber and Acacia catechu were common practices found during the study period. Human encroachments were severe in the southeastern parts of Nakharodi Lake; and eastern, southeastern, and northwestern parts of Ghodaghodi Lake. Siwakoti and Karki [20] mentioned illegal cutting and encroachment at the lake area. Mammals and birds suffer from poaching by local people as well as illegal hunters from other areas of the country. It has been reported that local poachers have always been active for killing wild animals in the lake area. Illegal hunting of wild boars, deer, and other wildlife as well as bird trapping and egg collection were prevalent in the area, either by the villagers or professional poachers. Neupane et al. [77] reported similar threats of poaching and illegal hunting of small mammals, fish, and birds at wetlands located in the far Western Nepal.

3.3.2. Habitat Destruction

Habitat destruction affects both harvested species such as aquatic plants and fishes and even nonharvested species of weeds, reptiles, and microorganisms. Large mammals like tiger, sloth bear, and most of the deer species were not sighted in the area for a couple of years. The current population pressure in the area and fragmentation of the forest and increased agricultural land have been identified as factors contributing to this degradation. The local people attributed this to the shrinkage and thinning of forest areas for the establishment of settlements around the lake that have heavily degraded the habitat of these mammals. The other drivers of habitat destruction in the lake complex include rites and rituals, unmanaged irrigation systems for agricultural fields, runoff from agricultural fields and siltation, and overgrazing.

The wastes generated from the rites and rituals performed by the religious pilgrims, especially indigenous Tharu community, on the shore of the lake, have contributed significantly to water pollution in the Ghodaghodi Lake complex. They celebrate by sacrificing domestic pigs, goats, chickens, and pigeons on the shore, which ultimately becomes a source of pollution. A few past studies [20, 22, 77] also documented cultural and religious activities as a major source of pollution. Recreational activities in the form of picnicking are a common practice inside the complex. The movement of people and the loud music system played for such recreation negatively impact the faunal species including birds.

During the last two decades, land use of the complex has changed due to the encroachment of migrants from the hilly districts of far western region. Forest area has decreased at the expense of agricultural land while forest cover has been converted into open grazing land, displacing the habitat of important birds and wildlife.

Water extraction for irrigation and water use for buffalo wallowing has severely affected the habitat. This study observed both Ghodaghodi and Nakharodi Lakes having a canal used for irrigation purposes, a practice that becomes even more intense during dry periods. Landowners and farmers downstream from the lake have a vested interest to secure water for irrigation. The lake complex does not have a permanent perennial source of water and this extraction system, especially in the dry season, greatly affects the aquatic life and migratory birds.

The southeastern part of Ghodaghodi Lake and eastern parts of Nakharodi Lake have been heavily affected by livestock grazing. As the occupation of most of the villagers used to be farming as well as rearing livestock, grazing the forests and open grasslands of the lake area is common. However, the trampling of soil and browsing of young palatable species from this traditional practice has damaged the regeneration capacity of native vegetation in the area.

Dichlorvos 76% EC and Endosulfan 35% EC were the major pesticides used, while urea and diammonium phosphate (DAP) were the major fertilizers used in crops near the lake vicinity. The seepage of such pesticides and fertilizers through agricultural runoff has caused eutrophication in the lake. As a result, excessive growth of aquatic macrophytes such as Ceratophyllum demersum, Nelumbo nucifera, Naja minor, Pistia stratiotes, and Hydrilla verticillata from the water surface was evident. Siwakoti and Karki [20] reported the occurrence of both the natural and human caused eutrophication at Ghodaghodi Lake complex with the invasion of Ipomea fistulosa and Salix spp. Eutrophication from agricultural runoff and invasion of water hyacinth were also reported by Shrestha [42] at Koshi Tappu wetland.

Siltation emerging from the degradation of upper watershed areas is another reason for habitat destruction. Rapid deforestation and encroachment in the watershed area within Betini forest, a major source of water, is causing reduced water supply to the lake. Overgrazing of the grassland at the watershed has also increased soil erosion and siltation. This finding is similar to that of [77]. In Nepal, nearly 69% of wetlands are threatened by sedimentation and siltation while 61% by agricultural runoff [7].

4. Conclusion and Recommendation

This study, a month long summer season survey, documents the existing biodiversity, the use pattern of floral diversity by the local people, and anthropogenic threats to the overall biodiversity of Ghodaghodi Lake complex. The Ghodaghodi Lake complex was found to be a very rich wetland diversity hotspot in the western low-land region of Nepal, though variations in the number of species than those of previous study by IUCN [7] and Kafle [22] were recorded. Within such a small territory, the existence of such a vast number of both the floral and faunal diversity is really an encouraging sign for conservation. The lake resources, especially aquatic and terrestrial plants, were traditionally been used for different purposes including medicinal, food, fodder, fruit, fuel wood, timber, and industrial. Among them, medicinal uses were a main priority for the local people because they have been traditionally practiced in the locality and are a good alternative to the health care system. However, the data revealed that most of the plant species were still untouched because of a lack of local knowledge on their potential value and utilization. This shows a scope in the exploration of ethnobotanical knowledge of the plant species in the Ghodaghodi Lake complex. If proper conservation and sustainable utilization is ensured, then the lake resources can have a good economic contribution to the lives of local people.

The paradox is however the threats in the area, mostly anthropogenic in nature, which could lead to an imbalance of the natural wetland ecosystem. If immediate conservation action is not put in place, then there is a likelihood that most of the threatened category animals will be in danger due to the anthropogenic threats identified by this study. The results show that Ghodaghodi Lake complex has an enormous economic and conservational potential and care should be taken to maintain its biodiversity value. The economic potential and multipurpose use of plant species, including medicinal values, could supplement the household income of the local people and be a good incentive for them for conservation. We recommend (1) more exploration of the indigenous lake resource uses including medicinal potential of available plant species, (2) prioritizing in situ biodiversity conservation, and (3) implementing awareness programs at local levels on the consequence of threats to lake biodiversity.

Conflict of Interests

The authors declare that there is no conflict of interests regarding the publication of this paper.


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