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Vol.2, No.2, December 2010

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vol.2 no 2 december 2010 exploring wetlands

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contents reflections on a wetland with a punch of salt pranav trivedi 3 wetlands benefit from citizen science jason p love 8 wetlands of banni and great rann of kachchh jugal kishore tiwari 13 understanding ecology of a freshwater wetland-thol lake jessica karia 16 vol.2 no.2 dec 2010 a bi-annual treat for nature lovers keoladeo national park an eco-tourist s impressions ketan tatu 21 editor dr ketan tatu layout and design pugmark qmulus consortium cover photo manoj dholakia great egret thol gujarat views expressed by the contributors in jalaplavit are not necessarily those of the editor need for conservation and sustainable management of wetlands t v ramachandra 23 they said it about wetlands and water 26

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jalaplavit december 2010 editorial dear wetland explorers recently there was a 3-day global birdwatchers conference 2010 in jamnagar city of gujarat state india birders from many countries attended the conference and they got opportunity of birding in one of the best wetlandbased sanctuaries namely khijadia bird sanctuary it is located at the distance of about 15 km from jamnagar city and over 200 species of birds occur here regularly during these 3 days many birders might have seen `globally near-threatened oriental darters black-necked storks painted storks and oriental white ibis in this wetland-jewel many of them might have come across several great crested grebes and some others might have seen crakes and oystercatchers readers can imagine the joy and thrill these birders might have got on seeing these and many other birds like cormorants terns gulls pelicans coots and various waders we know with each bird seen at a wetland a birder s joy and thrill get multiplied but it would be much nicer when on seeing a bird the joy of a birder would not be restricted only to the identification and photographing that bird it would be indeed desirable that a birder goes one step further and appreciates the habitat or the ecosystem that had kept the bird in store for him/her in other words on seeing a bird a bird-watcher should instantly feel that it is an integral element of its ecosystem a bird-watcher would consider himself/herself fortunate 1 on seeing a crake or a rail as these are uncommon and secretive waterbirds but would he/she have a sense of appreciation for the dense growth of emergent aquatic vegetation that has given cover to these rare birds similarly how nice it would be if a birdwatcher instantly understands the importance of a reedy patch on seeing a great/clamorous reed warbler therein on seeing a flock of foraging lesser flamingos in a shallow wetland how many of birders appreciate that wetland for endowing shallow open water habitat full of diatoms and blue-green algae it would be highly desirable that a birder should have a deep understanding that when he/she is observing a beautiful bird in a wetland at that time he is actually watching a beautiful element of the wetland ecosystem when he is watching a rare bird in a wetland he is watching a rare element of that ecosystem in nutshell it is the birder s responsibility to have developed appreciation for the bird-habitat or bird-ecosystem association when a guest sees a flower of rose in host s garden he may love just the flower and not the entire plant which bears that flower he may take photographs of the flower to be shown to others but may not go beyond that on the other hand when a houseowner the host having love for gardening sees a rose-flower in his premises he would not only get pleased by the beauty of that rose-flower in his premises but would also have a deep sense of love and care for the whole plant that endows the rose-flower similarly when a birder sees a great crested grebe or an oystercatcher and if he/she gets pleased only about that bird,

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jalaplavit december 2010 then the birder is like that guest who loved to see and photograph the flower of rose but lacked the sense of appreciation for the entire system called rose-plant but if a birder develops a sense of admiration for the wetland ecosystem of which that great crested grebe or the oystercatcher or the crake has been a small part then he she can be compared with that gardener having love and care for the well-being of entire `system the rose-plant one of the objectives of jalaplavit is to sensitize birders and other nature lovers towards holistic value of wetlands the activities like avi-tourism waterbird counts and bird-race are fragmentary activities if birders are not ecologically sensitized therefore though in the initial stage readers may find many waterfowl stuff in its issues conscious efforts will be made by jalaplavit team to cover the drama of various life-forms including terrestrial ones that might be taking place at these `transitional zones between aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems jalaplavit team thanks all the authors who contributed articles for this issue without such enthusiastic authors this voluntary efforts cannot be successful pugmark has brought out this issue in the form a `digital or `virtual magazine in other words jalaplavit would be displayed like a real magazine on the screen of your computer so go on clicking your mouse to turn the pages of this e-magazine if our readers like this format of jalaplavit it would be continued in future too happy `wetlanding ketan tatu do birders appreciate micro-habitats provided by wetland ecosystems to different birds for example shallow open water for ibises and storks and wet/dry land patch for red-wattled lapwing and terns 2 photo ketan tatu

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reflections on a wetland with a punch of salt jalaplavit december 2010 text photos pranav trivedi head education outreach section nature conservation fund the fortunate-ones at an edge of a wetland jewel-tso kar the high altitude trans-himalayan lakes vast remnants of the old rivers that were obliterated by the rising himalaya are silent witnesses to large-scale tectonic upheavals that took place several million years ago these bizarre and beautiful lakes dot the entire tibetan plateau one jewel among these fascinating wetlands is tso kar or white lake tso being the ladakhi word for lake and kar meaning white historically it was a focal point for the nomadic herdsmen and other high altitude communities of ladakh for its treasure ­ common salt a commodity that was rare and one of the most important items for barter then the lake has earned its local name owing to these salt deposits found there literally forming salt-hills at 3 the height of about 4,200 m with its deep blue brackish waters and marshy shores tso kar is among the most important wetlands for bird conservation in india breeding site for the globally threatened black-necked crane grus nigricollis and a host of other birds such as bar-headed goose anser indicus ruddy shelduck tadorna ferruginea great crested grebe podiceps cristatus lesser sand plover charadrius mongolus and a safe abode for the kiang or tibetan wild ass equus kiang tibetan wolf canis lupus chanco eurasian lynx lynx lynx and long-tailed marmot marmota caudata this saline lake also occupies high international importance geologically it is a priceless heritage with information of several

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jalaplavit december 2010 million years embedded in its depths and neighbourhoods located in a `closed bowl amidst lofty snow-capped mountains it receives water from the glacial melt plains and brown slopes of the mountains kiang looked spectacular bestowed with a rich pinkish-fawn pelage foals peeped through the security of their mothers and aunts and we accepted these greetings from the high altitude wild ass as if the visit was to provide us with all that tso kar is known for karma pointed at the marshy area to our right where a pair of blacknecked crane ­ a bird that can claim to have made ladakh famous for its wildlife was foraging classified as `vulnerable by the birdlife international and breeding in the marshes of hanle chushul and other parts of the changthang this mediumsized crane is interwoven in the folk tales and childhood memories of ladakhi people we assumed that there could be a nest or young chicks somewhere in the vast marsh that lay around them this was based on nothing else but the hope that this magnificent species succeeds in raising one more brood so that the future generations of ladakhis and visitors can view this beautiful crane and its life in natural habitat historically tso kar was a focal point for the high altitude communities that were in need of common salt i visited tso kar during the autumn august 2008 along with karma sonam our field coordinator in ladakh and jigish mehta volunteer graphic designer and naturalist forming a team the first sight of the wetland was a deep blue dot in the mountains as we moved closer this dot gradually expanded to reveal a vast waterbody hidden at this challenging altitude its vast blue waters were interspersed with pure white salthills and shining green-yellow marshes the brown-grey slopes of the mountains provided a stark yet harmonious background as we took to the dirt track along the margin of the lake we were greeted by a herd of kiang consisting of ten members ­ six mares and four foals the responsible mothers gave us a suspicious look but without giving the benefit of doubt trotted off concealing the foals a cloud of dust rose as they speeded up as we waited they stopped after a while still in a tight formation and foals hidden from our sight against the backdrop of vast green 4 against the backdrop of vast green plains and brown slopes of the mountains kiangs look spectacular i consider myself fortunate still to be able to see the sarus crane grus antigone a cousin of this high altitude crane at close quarters around many major cities in my state-gujarat so also

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jalaplavit december 2010 at the privilege of witnessing huge flocks of the migratory common cranes grus grus and demoiselle cranes anthropoides virgo during their winter stay in my state all the three species cause noticeable damage to crops but tolerance of farmers due to religious sentiments and cultural traditions has facilitated their survival and well-being i sometimes wonder isn t my spontaneous fondness for the black-necked crane an extension of my familiarity and liking for the sarus crane it is indeed possible to connect with other species in such a way i remembered the year 1987 or was it 1989 i m not sure when a pair of these five and a half ft tall wetland birds made their last nest in the midst of the city of ahmedabad we watched their disappearance literally from our city the black-necked crane was also known to nest in shey marshes not far from leh town it has been saved from a desperate situation for now but in this seemingly wild and remote corner at the top of the world the changes taking place in land use will continue to keep us on our toes a cozy restaurant inside and had some hot noodles besides this `restaurant tent was a home stay consisting of a rectangular room with three mattresses clean bedsheets and warm blankets there were a few wildlife posters on the walls and a closed glass window to guard against the dusty wind there was also a solar-powered light our evening foray after the muchneeded nap led us to more kiang including an all-stallion group an impressive upland buzzard buteo hemilasius the ubiquitous horned larks eremophila alpestris tibetan snowfinches montifringilla henrici and of course the hoopoes upupa epopes the wetland had pied avocets recurvirostra avocetta and brownheaded gulls larus brunnicephalus the water was far and the marsh prevented us from getting close enough to get a decent view with the spotting scope so we just slowly drifted along the dirt road moving to and fro as several tracks criss-crossed and confused us the blue waters had changed colour by now and a setting sun with hazy unsure clouds also changed the mood we returned to a luring hot chhaja salty butter tea and roti-daal our host ­ a young changpa nomadic herders of changthang plateau couple with a young kid was busy cooking and cleaning the solar-powered battery enlivened the sound-producing `device kind of an audio player that you only see in hotels on the highways and in remote areas that blurted the popular score of shakira identification courtesy ­ jigish night was a feast of stars and constellations the window glass transferred me straight to the sky and i rekindled my contact with the celestial objects 5 upupa epopes a hoopoe distracted us from the cranes and kept us busy by getting perilously close to the vehicle and perching at distances where one would get tempted to click pictures karma managed a beautiful shot as it flew more hoopoes joined in and we were to learn later that the lake s shores were literally teeming with these fellows reaching the small village of thugje was both a relief and a shock we did not see anyone around for a while finally catching the movement of a human shape we entered a small tent and found

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jalaplavit december 2010 the morning brought a clear sky and chill the tea that was to arrive at 6:00 am finally came in the formidable chinese thermos at 7:00 am two cups down the throat and we moved out looking for wildlife it was time for kiang-watching again and the wild asses obliged karma spotted a pair of black-necked cranes again accompanied by two juveniles almost the height of adults but with pale coloration the adults got alarmed even though we were at considerable distance and led the young birds to safety in marshy area at the edge of water there were several bar-headed goose ruddy shelduck avocets and gulls karma also reported a common redshank tringa totanus we did not drive much rather spent our time scanning for the other wild denizens that weren t spotted the previous evening our search didn t lead to desired outcome and we carried on to the western shore where tented accommodation is available previous day the partner was missing indicating in affirmative about our hopes of a nest being around moving further we saw more herds of kiang and himalayan marmot marmota olympus ­ the plump rodents that are an important part of the diet of wolf snow leopard uncia uncia and golden eagle aquila chrysaetos the waters were a lovely shimmering golden where sun rays sprinkled and a deep blue where they didn t we were now moving along the western and southern shores the lake cast a beautiful reflection of the mountains around our last point in the detour was a watch-tower near the twin lake of tso kar called startsapuk tso a freshwater wetland it was a host to almost 150 bar-headed goose several ruddy shelduck and the omnipresent gulls all these species apparently breed here kiang watched us from far and kept a track of our movements as we reached the shore and touched the cold water the luxuriant vegetation inside water and the marshy shores were a sure lure for many animals here there were a few herbs making a futile attempt to show off their beautiful flowers among the dominant sedges all along the shore marmot trails meandered through the sedges like small wildlife highways two days was a short time but that was all that we could afford on this trip as our visit was coming to an end i sat beneath the watch-tower gazing at the reflection of the peaks in water it was so tranquil and peaceful that one s awareness reached its peak with this awareness 6 long-tailed marmot on our way we spotted the same herd of kiang consisting solely of mares and foals watching the birds that fluttered along the road we moved on as we were driving we caught a glimpse of the black-necked crane single adult foraging close to the road it was at the same spot where we had spotted it on the

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jalaplavit december 2010 we were receptive to any movement and change in the surroundings i took a stock of wildlife we had seen old habits we had counted about 115 kiangs over 150 bar-headed geese more than 100 ruddy shelducks and at least six black-necked cranes the bird check-list based on rather casual observations touched 30 species karma even succeeded in showing the little owl athne noctua which he claimed to be such a common species before the trip but found otherwise to his dismay just one more way of nature to show how our surety of knowledge is an illusion the end of the trip was the beginning of reflection about conservation of this unique and important wetland the twin lakes have shrunk over the past thousands of years of existence but now due to global warming more hazards knock the doors of this paradise the reduction in water flow due to retreat of glaciers and changes in snow regimes are posing a real danger to the wetland and its unique life which apart from the larger charismatic birds and mammals also includes such living fossils as artemia a small shrimp of inland saline lakes there are other local problems and issues these include tourism and its impacts e.g solid waste pollution conservation and monitoring of threatened flora and fauna and several awareness related concerns further considering the high number of visitors it is important to highlight the wildlife values of the lake and the contribution that tourists can make towards conservation an interpretation centre will be very relevant in this regard 7 and trained local guides can make a big difference to the tourism activities there are some at present but the number and skills both can improve considerably solid-waste pollution contribution of the modern society to this otherwise pristine landscape as we slowly drifted away from the water i watched with a void the empty brown slopes of the mountains around imagining herds of tibetan gazelle procapra picticaudata presently locally extinct from tso kar and numbering less than 100 in ladakh roaming there tso kar in recent years has been receiving attention largely due to its tourism potential based on scenic and wildlife values careful monitoring sound eco-tourism and sustained awareness creation with involvement of local communities will ensure that the call of the black-necked crane will reverberate in these mountains and enthrall our species as we struggle to maintain harmony with ourselves and with other species on this marvelous blue planet dr pranav trivedi is senior scientist and head education outreach section of nature conservation fund he is also conservation director snow leopard trust india programme.

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jalaplavit december 2010 wetlands benefit from citizen science text photos jason p love university of georgia coweeta long-term ecological research program what do swamp darners red-winged blackbirds wood frogs and spotted salamanders all have in common aside from all being associated with wetlands they also benefit from the work of citizen science citizen science simply put is the use of volunteer non-scientists to assist in the collection of data to answer scientific questions perhaps the oldest and best known citizen science project is the annual christmas bird count held in north america concerned by a decline in bird numbers due in part to nonregulated hunting the christmas bird count was started in 1900 by ornithologist frank chapman to encourage people to count birds rather than to participate in traditional competitive bird hunts over the holidays the first count enlisted 27 volunteers who counted a total of 90 bird species at 25 different sites in north america from new brunswick to colorado one hundred and ten years later frank chapman s simple bird count has grown to include over 1,700 sites throughout the americas and enlists over 50,000 volunteers while the data collected from such a large number of volunteers is certainly not perfect the sheer amount of data coupled with the large number of different ecosystems covered makes the christmas bird count one of the most valuable data sets for assessing trends in bird abundance and distribution 8 since the first christmas bird count was held over 110 years ago other citizen science projects have emerged not only in north america but also in other parts of the world for instance a bird monitoring program was established in india in recent years migrant watch http www.migrantwatch.in/index.php enlists citizen science volunteers to help track the bird migration across india including birds that require wetland habitat like the christmas bird count migrant watch started out small but seems to grow each year both in the number of participants and the number of sites visited aside from providing scientists with useful data citizen science programs also offer something even more valuable in this fast-paced world of ours time to slow down and enjoy the wonders of nature when working as the citizen science director at great smoky mountains institute at tremont http www.gsmit.org a residential environmental education center located in great smoky mountains national park i was often dismayed that children didn t know the name of common trees or birds i later learned that a recent study revealed that young people could identify over 1,000 corporate logos but fewer than 10 plants or animals native to their backyards this nature deficit disorder a term coined by richard louv in his 2005 book last child in the

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jalaplavit december 2010 woods has been accelerating as natural areas are destroyed more people move to cities and computers and video games hold our children captive in their homes television video games the internet cell phones ­ these all are supposed to make us more connected but often at the expense of being disconnected to the real world outside our windows by being able to connect anywhere we end up in a nowhere land spending so little time outside that we even go to the television or internet to see what the weather is like outside instead of actually taking the time to step outside and see for ourselves citizen science can help re-engage people especially young people to the wonders of nature by introducing them to the local natural areas near their home as well as to the creatures and plants that make this world of ours so beautiful and captivating to be a part of and not apart from particularly the internet and digital cameras for example the lost ladybug project http www.lostladybug.org relies on citizens in the u.s to take pictures of ladybugs small colorful beetles with their digital cameras participants then upload their ladybug pictures to the lost ladybug project website including information like the date and location ladybug specialists identify the specimens from the photos participants can then go online to see the results of the survey as well as learn more about ladybug ecology and life history persons visiting the website learn that exotic asian ladybugs are expanding while the several hundred native species of ladybugs seem to be growing less common while a few seem to be disappearing completely all ladybugs are predators and many feed on agricultural pests such as aphids making ladybugs both ecologically and economically important as of the writing of this article 6,020 ladybugs had been contributed to the project helping entomologists better understand the distribution and relative abundance of these colorful and important beetles the cornell lab of ornithology has several citizen science projects related to the study of birds including nestcams http watch.birds.cornell.edu nestcams/home/index for this project a small digital video camera is placed in the nest of the bird visitors can log in to view the live nest camera making observations of bird behavior many wetland species of birds including species like wood ducks are included in this project each video is archived and volunteers take 9 young citizens exploring the wetlands although technology such as the internet and video games can be partly to blame for the nature defiticit disorder plaguing our youth ironically part of the growth in citizen science programs can be traced to the rise in technology,

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jalaplavit december 2010 anhinga capturing fish frog-one of the most important organisms of wetlands special note of unusual or novel behaviors that may be of interest to scientists aside from birds there are now several projects that focus on the conservation of frogs frogs are perhaps the first animal we think of when we think of wetlands nearly all frogs must go to water to breed and most of the time that body of water is a wetland because frog populations are declining in many parts of the world due to habitat destruction pollution invasive species and disease it is important to assess the health of local frog and toad populations frogwatch usa http www aza.org/frogwatch enlists volunteers to visit their local wetlands and ponds to listen to frog calls volunteers first must learn to correctly identify the calls of their local frogs by taking a frog call quiz online they then visit nearby sites collect basic information about the site and current weather conditions volunteers then listen to and identify frog calls rating each species based on the intensity of the call there are similar programs in individual states in the u.s e.g north carolina calling amphibian survey program http www.bio.davidson 10 edu/people/midorcas/ncparc/casp casp.htm as well as in other countries e.g frogwatch ontario http www naturewatch.ca/english/frogwatch/on in the southeastern united states citizen scientists in florida are noting the presence of a particular species of frog the cuban tree frog this project is led by the university of florida http ufwildlife.ifas.ufl.edu/citizen_sci.shtml the cuban tree frog is not native to florida and competes with florida s native tree frogs volunteers are tasked with identifying the frogs providing estimates of the number of cuban tree frogs their location size and whether native tree frogs were seen or heard in the vicinity of the exotic cuban tree frogs volunteers can then take the extra step in humanely euthanizing these invasive exotic frogs to help keep the population from spreading to other areas in florida and to help conserve florida s native tree frogs in great smoky mountains national park a large national park located in the southern appalachian mountains in tennessee and north carolina citizen scientists are helping to monitor the annual variation in wood frog

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jalaplavit december 2010 and spotted salamander reproductive success started over 10 years ago by professional herpetologists the long-term monitoring program was at risk of being dropped because of the lack of time that the original investigators had to spend on the project fortunately great smoky mountains institute at tremont was able to teach volunteers the protocols of the sampling so that the study could continue as a result the breeding survey was able to sample during years of extreme drought as well as during the wettest year in recent memory like the christmas bird count long-term monitoring programs such as the wood frog and spotted salamander breeding survey help scientists better understand population dynamics during relatively normal weather conditions as well as during extreme weather events and provide scientists insight into what might happen to amphibian populations as a result of climate change vertebrates are not the only group of animals that benefit from citizen scientists called the largest science project in the world the all taxa biodiversity inventory atbi in great smoky mountains national park seeks to identify every living species within the park s 209,000 hectares from slime molds to land snails this ambitious project is administered by the non-profit discover life in america http www.dlia.org soon after starting the project it was realized that the vast majority of unidentified organisms were invertebrates while many invertebrates can be lured to traps other groups had to be collected by more 11 active means including the jet fighters of the insect world the dragonflies adult dragonflies can often be found near water patrolling small streams or perching on sedges and other wetland plants but they are especially numerous in wetlands because great smoky mountains national park is so large and contains several specialized habitats which support different dragonfly species it was soon realized that it would take more than just a handful of entomologists to adequately sample the park s dragonfly and damselfly diversity citizen scientists were once again called into action this time carrying aerial nets cameras and field guides and calling themselves team odonate odonate is the name of the order that includes dragonflies and damselflies because of this extra effort the park was able to identify 93 different species of odonates including several rare species that were unknown to occur in the park young citizens are dragonfly enthusiasts too there are even opportunities for volunteers to monitor wetland health the u.s environmental protection agency epa has a number of different programs

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jalaplavit december 2010 to train citizens to monitor streams and other bodies of water including wetlands http w w w e p a g o v wetlands monitor volunteers periodically test different water quality parameters such as ph and water temperature as well as noting any abnormal changes to the wetland these types of programs give citizens a sense of ownership of the wetland they are monitoring and help alert land managers and government agencies of potential stressors that may emerge such as pollution or invasive species wetlands are special places however in today s world it will take more than professional land managers and scientists to ensure the preservation and conservation of these vital habitats it will take concerned citizens including a strong network of citizen scientists to make certain that these special places exist for future generations of people to explore and enjoy 12 photo manoj dholakia jason love graduated from the university of georgia with a bachelor of science in forest resources majoring in wildlife he received his master of science in wildlife and fisheries resources from west virginia university after graduating jason worked at great smoky mountains institute at tremont where he served as the citizen science director jason now works for the university of georgia as the site manager for the coweeta long term ecological research program in the southern appalachian mountains in north carolina u.s.a.

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wetlands of banni and great rann of kachchh text jugal kishore tiwari photos manoj dholakia kachchh district gujarat state india is located on the migration pathway of palaerctic birds a stream of migratory birds passes through kachchh every year from august and this scenario continues till march the vast open areas and lowlying flood plains of banni grassland and great rann a saline desert-cum-seasonal wetland together with the man-made wetlands like dams reservoirs ponds and lakes provide excellent habitat for waders waterfowl and migratory cranes i.e common cranes and demoiselle cranes wetlands of banni banni grassland region having an area of 3,847 sq km is a low lying alluvial plain in monsoon the banni is flooded by the north-flowing rivers like bhukhi gajansar chhari layari and nara and the water from the huge catchment areas of kiro and palkhiari hills washes the salinity of the saline land of banni the water levels in the banni match with that in the great rann for some time however with passage of time most of the water is emptied into the rann and the saucer shaped natural depressions of banni hold water resulting into formation of seasonal wetlands such wetlands are locally called by different names depending on their size thus those having largest areas are locally called `dhand meaning wetlands with enough of waters editor chhari13 dhand and servo dhand are the wetlands belonging to this category the wetlands that are smaller than dhandhs but larger than many other types of wetlands in the banni are called thath thus thath are the second largest wetlands of the banni and some examples of this category are hodko thath baghadio thath etc chhachh are the wetlands even smaller than thath some examples are a chhachh near chhachhlo jheel village and a chhachh near bhitara village the wetlands having the smallest areas are called `kar e.g kar near kiro hill the `kar and `chhachh are the wetlands having short life span every year of course none of the above four categories of wetlands are perennial the size and volume of water in these waterbodies are dependent on the amount of rainfall received in that particular year jalaplavit december 2010 founder president center for deserts and oceancedo chhari dhandh against the backdrop of dhinodhar hills

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