Central Highlands of Sri Lanka

Country
Sri Lanka
Inscribed in
2010
Criteria
(ix)
(x)
The conservation outlook for this site has been assessed as "significant concern" in the latest assessment cycle. Explore the Conservation Outlook Assessment for the site below. You have the option to access the summary, or the detailed assessment.
Sri Lanka's highlands are situated in the south-central part of the island. The property comprises the Peak Wilderness Protected Area, the Horton Plains National Park and the Knuckles Conservation Forest. These montane forests, where the land rises to 2,500 metres above sea-level, are home to an extraordinary range of flora and fauna, including several endangered species such as the western-purple-faced langur, the Horton Plains slender loris and the Sri Lankan leopard. The region is considered a super biodiversity hotspot. © UNESCO
© Sriyanie Miththapala

Summary

2020 Conservation Outlook

Finalised on
02 Dec 2020
Significant concern
The Central Highlands of Sri Lanka were inscribed onto the World Heritage List in 2010 in recognition of the site’s values within one of the world’s richest concentrations of biodiversity. The site conserves the largest remaining stands of sub-montane and montane rainforest in Sri Lanka and protects the habitat of an assemblage of associated species displaying extraordinary levels of endemism, many of which are site endemic. The property is home to several endangered flagship species such as the Purple-Faced Langur of Sri Lanka and the Sri Lankan Leopard. The maintenance of the values is dependent on the continued efforts to address issues of concern and putting in place the necessary staffing and funding to guarantee implementation of planned conservation actions. Recent completion of a management planning framework for the site is welcome. However, inadequate staff capacity and funding are limiting the effective operation of the new management plans.
One of the key current threats relates to an increasing number of invasive alien species. Tourism related impacts, such as waste, pollution, disturbance and traffic, also appear to be among the most significant threats to the site. The management authorities will need to implement an effective management and monitoring framework for tourism and adapt management accordingly to address this issue. Conversion of wetlands to agricultural plots, gem-mining, snare-trapping of Leopards, illegal collection of plants and animals for trade and forest encroachment are other threats on the increase. There remains a need for clearer demarcation of the property boundaries and improved law enforcement to effectively prevent these illegal activities.

Current state and trend of VALUES

High Concern
Trend
Deteriorating
The values of the site are being impacted  by the spread of invasive species, impacts of increasing tourism, human population pressures and other ecosystem modifications, which will need on-going management effort and adequate staffing and funding. There remains a need to fully develop a management and monitoring framework for tourism. This is essential as the high number of visitors, including pilgrims, has an increasing environmental impact on the site. There remains a need for clearer demarcation of the property boundaries. Illegal activities are still being undertaken in the property’s buffer zones, including poaching, small scale illegal logging and land clearing and more effective law enforcement could address this.

Overall THREATS

High Threat
Key current threats to the site relates to invasive plant and animal species as well as forest dieback and vulnerability to fungal attacks. Trapping leopards using snares, illegal vegetable cultivation in highland wetlands and habitat shifting due to changing climate are new emerging threats of high concern.
The environmental impact of the high number of visitors to the site continues to be of concern, however, the development and implementation of a management and monitoring framework for ecotourism is underway. Better demarcation of the site boundaries, and an increase in the effectiveness of law enforcement should address illegal activities in the property’s buffer zones such as poaching for animal pet trade, collection of Sri Lankan Agarwood, small scale illegal logging and land clearing. Continued efforts will be required reinforcing the need for adequate staffing and funding to ensure that these measures are carried out effectively. Several new national level programs (Ecosystem conservation & Management Project (ESCAMP) 2017 and National REDD+ Investment Framework and Action Plan (NRIFAP) 2018-2022) are expected to address most of these issues in protected areas including the components of the property.

Overall PROTECTION and MANAGEMENT

Mostly Effective
The site enjoys adequate legal protection under Sri Lankan law and it is clear that management efforts continue to be directed at threatening processes. An overall management framework has been developed for the serial site, as well as management plans for each of the component parts of the property. A need for the development of an effective management and monitoring framework for tourism has been identified and this is underway. In order to implement these planning strategies, adequate staffing and funding need to be made available for the effective implementation of the new management plans. A number of new internationally funded projects for protected areas management have been developed recently in Sri Lanka and will also contribute to addressing some of the issues faced by the components of the property.

Full assessment

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Finalised on
02 Dec 2020

Description of values

A critical habitat refuge for several globally significant and endangered species

Criterion
(x)
The endemic purple-faced langur of Sri Lanka (Semnopithecus vetulus) has evolved into several morphologically different forms recognizable today. The Sri Lankan leopard, the only representative of the genus Panthera on the island, diverged from other felids about 1.8 million years ago and is a unique sub-species (Panthera pardus kotiya). The Sri Lankan leopard is the island’s apex predator of potential keystone importance, this carnivore also fulfils “umbrella” and “flagship” criterion and is of high ecological and existence value (Kittle et al., 2018). Long isolation and the concomitant evolutionary processes have also resulted in a Sri Lankan molluscan fauna that is the most distinct in the South Asian region (World Heritage Committee, 2010).

Important and significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of threatened and endemic vertebrate species

Criterion
(x)
The three serial components that comprise the site contain the only habitats of many threatened species and are therefore of prime importance for their in-situ conservation. The site features exceptionally high numbers of threatened species, extraordinary levels of endemism, and high levels of species richness in a number of taxonomic groups. Of the 408 species of vertebrates 83% of indigenous fresh water fishes and 81% of the amphibians in Peak Wilderness Protected Area are endemic, 91% of the amphibians and 89% of the reptiles in HPNP are endemic, and 64% of the amphibians and 51% of the reptiles in the Knuckles Conservation Forest are endemic (World Heritage Committee, 2010). Majority of land snails and freshwater crabs also exhibit very high endemism - 80% and 98% respectively are restricted to two components of the World Heritage property including their buffer zones and are in threatened categories of the IUCN Red List (National Red List of Sri Lanka 2012).

Ecological and biological processes which support the sub-montane and montane rainforests of Sri Lanka

Criterion
(ix)
The site comprises three serial properties: The Peak Wilderness Protected Area (PWPA), the Horton Plains National Park (HPNP), and the Knuckles Conservation Forest (KCF) and includes the largest and least disturbed remaining areas of the sub-montane and montane rain forests of Sri Lanka, which are a global conservation priority. The property includes areas of Sri Lankan montane rain forests considered as a super-hotspot within the Western Ghats and Sri Lanka biodiversity hotspot. More than half of Sri Lanka’s endemic vertebrates, half of the country’s endemic flowering plants and more than 34% of its endemic trees, shrubs, and herbs are restricted to these diverse montane rain forests and adjoining grassland areas (World Heritage Committee, 2010). A recent study highlighted how the hills of Sri Lanka served as “species pumps as well as refuges” throughout 31 million years of evolution, highlighting the importance of tropical montane regions for both the generation and maintenance of biodiversity (Meegaskumbura et al., 2019).

Assessment information

High Threat
One of the key current threats to the site relates to an increasing number of invasive plant and animal species that have been identified in the property. Nine problematic species have been identified, which could have a significant impact on its Outstanding Universal Value, especially combined with the effects of climate change. A further key threat is forest dieback, which has been registered in the Horton Plains National Park component where 22 plant species are reported to be affected. A number of factors have been identified as contributing to plant vulnerability to fungal attacks, but ongoing research is still needed to find a solution to this problem. Trapping leopards using snares, as well as illegal vegetable cultivation in highland wetlands, habitat shifting due to changing climate, illegal pet trade, poaching of threatened agamid lizards and illegal collection of Sri Lankan wild Agarwood are serious threats that have been emerging in recent times.
Other threats emanates from seasonal and localised heavy visitation. Garbage disposal, pollution and disturbance from vehicles have been the direct result of the high number of annual visitors to the site, particularly to Horton Plains National Park and the Peak Wilderness Protected Area. In addition, unregulated tourism is now also increasing in Knuckles Conservation Forest. New visitor management plans are being prepared for each component, and an action plan is being prepared to prevent and mitigate the environmental impact of the pilgrimage season in the Peak Wilderness Protected Area. Since 2000, there has been no legal cardamom cultivation allowed and the current illegal cardamom cultivation is limited to the maintenance of abandoned crops thus posing a relatively low threat to the site.

 
Invasive Non-Native/ Alien Species, Diseases/pathogens
(Invasive Species )
High Threat
Inside site
, Localised(<5%)
Invasive species adversely affecting the biodiversity of the site have been identified in Knuckles Conservation Forest (KCF) and Horton Plains National Park (HPNP). Among those identified in KCF, Lantana camara is the most dominant single species. The removal of Eucalypts in 30 hectares within KCF in the Pitawala Patana grassland, and of Lantana camara in other areas, is being carried out. A programme to remove invasive species in 80 ha of KCF in 2012 was carried out with a commitment to continue the program until all identified areas are cleared from invasive species (UNESCO, 2012). In the HPNP, the spread of Ulex europaeus has had a significant impact on the biodiversity of the HPNP (IUCN, 2010). Ulex was introduced to the HPNP during the British rule. A programme to remove the weed has been completed in 22 hectares of the 30 hectares identified for clearing (State Party of Sri Lanka, 2012). Soil seed bank studies on three forest communities along elevational and climatic gradients in the KCF has shown that seeds of invasive species were represented comparatively less in all three forest communities indicating no significant threat from invasive species to them (Madawala et al. 2016).
The integrity of the indigenous biota of the HPNP has been jeopardized to varying extents by deliberate introductions  or escapes from the surroundings. Among these are  i. Gourse (Ulex europeus) invading natural grasslands; ii). Common carp and rainbow trout competing with endemic crustaceans - Caridina singhalensis; iii) Jungle crow (Corvus levelliantii) due to garbage disposal by visitors with threats to endemic lizards; iv) more recently Indian pea fowl (Pavo cristatus) has been recorded in the grasslands posing a threat to endemic fauna on Horton Plains and also acting as an indicator of climate change (Chandrasiri, et al., 2017; Dharmarathne et al., 2018).
Mining/ Quarrying
(Illegal gem mining )
Very Low Threat
Inside site
, Localised(<5%)
Illegal gemming has been a problem in the past. Strict enforcement measures adopted by the Forest Department and Department of Wildlife Conservation have effectively controlled these activities taking place within the Peak Wilderness Protected Area (State Party of Sri Lanka, 2012).
Crops
(Illegal Cardamom cultivation under forest canopy (KCF) )
Low Threat
Inside site
, Localised(<5%)
The legal practice of growing cardamom in KCF was started in the 1960s and continued until the KCF was declared a Conservation Forest in 2000. From that time, those involved were removed from the KCF and the area was left to regenerate. Several incidences of illegal harvesting of abandoned cardamom crops have been reported with 400 ha of KCF affected by cultivation under the canopy. Most cardamom cultivation is limited to the maintenance of abandoned crops. The Forest Department has taken legal action against the perpetrators and law enforcement officers are permanently stationed in the area. Recent surveys on the impact of banning cardamom cultivation in the Knuckles have shown that majority of people dependent on cardamom cultivation have moved in to other agricultural pursuits (Jayasinghe and Rambodagedera, 2014). The north-eastern slopes of the KCF have been identified as a major watershed area for the Moragahakanda-Kaluganga hydropower and irrigation reservoir and a greater protection is offered (Moragahakanda-Kaluganga EIA report).
Tourism/ visitors/ recreation
(High number of visitors )
High Threat
Inside site
, Scattered(5-15%)
There are a high number of annual visitors to the site, especially to Horton Plains National Park (HPNP) and Peak Wilderness Protected Area (PWPA), going beyond carrying capacity at peak periods. During the vacation months, an excessive number of visitors are being recorded in HPNP, and endemic vertebrate fauna is threatened by road-kills as well as visitor disturbances (Karunarathna et al., 2017; Dhananjani et al., 2019). Visitor impacts also relate to the annual pilgrimage of two million visitors who trek to Adam’s Peak within PWPA. These impacts are localized and temporal in that a closed season of six months allows for ecological recovery (IUCN, 2010). Knuckles Conservation Forest (KCF) is experiencing an increasing and unregulated visitor pressure, especially from uncontrolled ecotourism trends, which is beginning to show significant impacts and pose a serious problem to threatened species. The main environmental problems caused by visitor numbers in these component parts of the site include haphazard garbage disposal, pollution and disturbance from vehicles, and road kills (UNESCO, 2012). A newly described reptile species (Aspedura desilvai) was found to be threatened by acute habitat loss caused by forest fragmentation, illegal cardamom plantations, uncontrolled gem mining, forest fires caused by human activity, increased and unregulated ecotourism, road kills and the introduction and spread of invasive alien species (Wickramasinghe et al., 2019).
Other Ecosystem Modifications
(Forest dieback)
High Threat
Inside site
, Scattered(5-15%)
Forest dieback was first observed in 1946 on some mountain slopes of HPNP and subsequent studies have revealed some 22 plant species have been affected, most probably caused by fungal attack, with other environmental factors contributing to make the trees vulnerable (State Party of Sri Lanka, 2012). Forest dieback has now been recorded in all three components of the property, and represents a serious problem to ecosystem health. Although some preliminary research has been undertaken on the forest dieback phenomenon in HPNP, studies are yet to be carried out in the other two components (IUCN Consultation, 2014). Forest canopy dieback in Horton Plains assessed using multispectral satellite data have shown that while 27% (area of 9.5 km2) of the total forest reserve is affected by forest dieback, environmental variables examined viz. slope, aspect and Topographic Wetness Index have a significant positive influence on dieback (Rupasinghe et al., 2017). Recent research has indicated that the pH of the mist, reaching values as low as 3.9 during the April-May period, may cause chemical stress in trees exposed to this acid mist affecting their physiological and biochemical stability (Pethiyagoda, 2012 pages 133 -136 and the references therein).
Hunting and trapping
(Trapping leopards using snares)
High Threat
Inside site
, Scattered(5-15%)
Outside site
Of the total 79 leopard deaths reported during the past decade, 42 deaths were caused by snare-induced injuries. Data for 2010-2020 also show that 90% of leopards that get caught in snares die from their injuries (Rodrigo, 2020). During economic difficulties, many people would explore alternatives such as cultivating vegetable plots by clearing little corridors that are essentially paths used by wildlife such as leopards, setting up snares either to protect their plots or to catch wild game.
Other
(Illegal pet trade, poaching of threatened agamid lizards and illegal collection of Agarwood)
Low Threat
Inside site
, Scattered(5-15%)
Outside site
A new research paper has highlighted how rare agamid lizards found only in Sri Lanka are trafficked and sold as exotic pets, prompting conservationists to renew their call for enhanced global protection for several of these species. The lucrative nature of the exotic pet trade incentivizes poachers and traffickers and seriously threatens the animals being poached from the wild (Handunnetti, 2019; Rodrigo, 2019a).
During the past few years illegal and unsustainable removal of Sri Lankan Agarwood (Gyrinops walla) trees has been taking place in all protected areas including the components of the Central Highlands World Heritage site (Gunatilleke et al., 2014; Rodrigo, 2019b).
Habitat Shifting/ Alteration
( Habitat shifting due to changing climate)
Low Threat
Inside site
, Widespread(15-50%)
Outside site
A preliminary study conducted in 2017 by modeling the distribution ranges of threatened and endemic odonates of Sri Lanka using the current and predicted climatic data shows that a majority of species studied would see their range shrink by 2050. Montane-specific species such as the critically endangered smoky-winged threadtail (Elattoneura leucostigma) would be drastically impacted by this, with an alarming shrink in the size of climatically suitable range that could even lead to possible extinction (Sumanapala, 2020).
Population sizes of the critically endangered Kirthisinghe's rock frog (Nannophyrs marrmorata) assessed quantitatively revealed considerable seasonal fluctuations with marked population declines during peak dry seasons. With the predicted adverse effects climate change, this study would serve as a bench mark in assessing annual population trends (Senanayake et al., 2018 and 2019). 
Crops
(Illegal vegetable cultivation in highland wetlands)
High Threat
Outside site
Habitat deterioration and degradation, clearing of vegetation, siltation, water pollution, and spread of invasive alien species are significant threats to highland wetlands. Recent studies revealed that most of the marshy lands and seasonal streams of tea plantations, which support odonates, amphibians, and birds, have been transformed for domestic agriculture by the estate community in the Central Highlands (Kottawa-Arachchi, 2017). 
Low Threat
Boundaries are well defined for Horton Plains National Park and Knuckles Conservation Forest, but inadequate boundary demarcation of the Peak Wilderness Protected Area is hampering protection and conservation. Law enforcement is still not fully effective in stopping illegal activities within the buffer zones. These include poaching, small scale illegal logging, and land clearing encroachment from human settlements, with new land-clearing continuing. At present this threat is considered to be relatively low, however, on-going action is required to ensure indirect effects do not become significant.
Other
(Buffer zone management practices )
Low Threat
Inside site
, Extent of threat not known
Boundaries are well defined for HPNP and KCF, but not for PWPA, which is hampering protection and conservation. Clear boundary demarcation is needed to identify the private lands that fall within the boundaries. Without this, illegal expansion of these lands and new land clearing could increase (IUCN SOC, 2012). Buffer zone management practices vary among the three components. Effectively functioning buffer zones exist in HPNP and PWPA, ensuring protection from threats arising from outside the boundaries of the site. The revised and updated management plans for these two components are included in the ESCAMP project for implementation from 2017 onwards (IUCN Consultation, 2017).
Other Activities
(Human settlements on the periphery )
Low Threat
Outside site
KCF has the highest number of human settlements on its periphery with around 86 villages in the buffer zone. This proximity of settlements poses the biggest threat to the site, however, the legal framework and community cooperation initiatives that are in place should ensure adequate protection of the site. Actions have been initiated to identify new opportunities to work with buffer zone communities and to strengthen the law enforcement activities in the periphery of the property. (State Party of Sri Lanka, 2012). Several peripheral villages of the NE Knuckles component of the property were evacuated during the construction of the Moragahakanda and Kaluganga reservoirs and these reservoir reservation lands are to be transferred to the Forest Department for conservation management (IUCN Consultation, 2017).
Nearly 90% of the Red slender loris (tardigradus nycticeboides) inhabiting natural montane forests has been lost to human settlements, tea plantations, Eucalyptus/Pinus plantations and the remainder is under threat due to forest dieback, firewood collection by local people, forest fire and encroachment by alien invasive species. The Zoological Society of London’s EDGE of Existence programme ranked L. tardigradus within the top 100 of global mammal priority species based on its evolutionary distinctiveness (ED) and global endangerment (GE). The L. tardigradus is further listed among Sri Lanka's five most concerned species by the Department of Wildlife Conservation Sri Lanka (Gamage et al., 2016).
Key current threats to the site relates to invasive plant and animal species as well as forest dieback and vulnerability to fungal attacks. Trapping leopards using snares, illegal vegetable cultivation in highland wetlands and habitat shifting due to changing climate are new emerging threats of high concern.
The environmental impact of the high number of visitors to the site continues to be of concern, however, the development and implementation of a management and monitoring framework for ecotourism is underway. Better demarcation of the site boundaries, and an increase in the effectiveness of law enforcement should address illegal activities in the property’s buffer zones such as poaching for animal pet trade, collection of Sri Lankan Agarwood, small scale illegal logging and land clearing. Continued efforts will be required reinforcing the need for adequate staffing and funding to ensure that these measures are carried out effectively. Several new national level programs (Ecosystem conservation & Management Project (ESCAMP) 2017 and National REDD+ Investment Framework and Action Plan (NRIFAP) 2018-2022) are expected to address most of these issues in protected areas including the components of the property.
Management system
Some Concern
Each of the components of the serial site has management plans in place and an overall management framework has been developed. (State Party of Sri Lanka, 2012). In 2011 the State Party reported that plans are only partially implemented (UNESCO Periodic Report, 2011) and this is still the case. Inadequate staff capacity and funding are limiting the effective implementation of the new management plans (UNESCO, 2012). The components of the site - Peak Wilderness Protected Area (PWPA), Horton Plains National Park (HPNP) and Knuckles Conservation Forest (KCF) - all fall under different management categories receiving different kind of protection. These areas are also managed by two state agencies. PWPA is a sanctuary managed by the Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC), in which certain human activities are allowed (e.g. collection of NTFP). Entry in the PA is not restricted or regulated. HPNP is a National Park managed by the DWC, but under a much higher degree of protection than the PWPA. Entry without a ticket (fee payment) is illegal and no human activities are allowed (other than visiting and site seeing). KCF is managed by the Forest Department under a protection regime similar to PWPA. All management plans are being revised and funding has been pledged by the World Bank ESCAMP project for 5 years (IUCN Consultation, 2017).
Effectiveness of management system
Some Concern
The site has an overarching management framework as well as individual management plans for each component of the serial site (State Party of Sri Lanka, 2012). However, management effectiveness relates to how well the plans are able to be implemented. In this regard concerns arise regarding the adequacy of staffing and funding, as well as the effectiveness with which tourism is being managed. (UNESCO, 2012). The State Party has been encouraged to include as part of the planned regular monitoring of threats, the regular evaluation of the effectiveness of management provisions, in order to ensure that existing and new threats are effectively controlled (World Heritage Committee, 2012).
Boundaries
Some Concern
Boundaries are well defined for HPNP and KCF, but not for PWPA, which is hampering protection and conservation. Buffer zones are established for all three components of the property, however, law enforcement is not fully effective in stopping illegal activities within the buffer zones, including poaching, small scale illegal logging, and land clearing (UNESCO, 2012). Boundary demarcation of PWPA is included in the ESCAMP project plan (IUCN Consultation, 2017).
Integration into regional and national planning systems
Highly Effective
There are provisions in place for coordination of management between the two government institutions that manage the property (the Forest Department and the Department of Wildlife Conservation), as well as for stakeholder involvement (UNESCO, 2012). The National REDD+ Investment Framework and Action Plan (NRIFAP) has identified policies and measures (PAMs) for i) Improving forest law enforcement and monitoring ii) scaling-up of forest boundary survey, demarcation and declaration among a host of other PAMs to improve the forest cover under both institutions and there will be priority attention for the World Heritage property (REDD+ SL 2017).
The National Biodiversity Strategic Action Plan (NBSAP 2016-2022) has given a detailed account of i) Biodiversity of Sri Lanka, trends and linkages to human-wellbeing, ii) Causes and consequences of biodiversity loss, iii) Existing institutional, legal and policy framework for biodiversity conservation, iv) Barriers and challenges for effective conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, and v) setting national targets and finally the national strategic action plan and the requirements for its effective implementation. Most of the concerns described in this Outlook assessment document (2020) in relation to Central Highlands WHS have been strategized in the NBSAP 2016-2022.
Relationships with local people
Mostly Effective
An overall management plan for this serial property and three different management plans for its components were prepared in collaboration with key stakeholders. That State Party furthermore outlines community engagement with 32 Community Based Organisations in the buffer zone of KCF as well as implementation of community forestry programmes (UNESCO, 2012).
A comprehensive Management Plan for the Horton Plains National Park (2012) -  a component of the Central Highlands of Sri Lanka World Heritage Site is being currently reviewed along with that of the Peak Wilderness Protected Area by the Department of Wildlife Conservation.
Friends of Horton Plains established in 2008 consisting mostly the representatives from the neighboring tea plantation community, researchers from the Tea Research Institute, Thalawakele and other volunteers are conducting awareness programs on the co-existence strategies for reduction of human-wildlife conflicts by gaining a better understanding of the wildlife behavior in the buffer zone of the Horton Plains National Park (Kottawe-Arachchi and Gamage, 2018).
Legal framework
Mostly Effective
All three areas that make up the site are state-owned and under governmental protection. Legal frameworks are in place to ensure maintenance of the OUV, although as a National Park, HPNP is a managed under a much higher degree of protection than the PWPA and KCF.
Law enforcement
Some Concern
Enforcement of the relevant laws and regulations is overall effective within the property. However, enforcement of protective legislation is considered inadequate in the buffer zones and surrounding areas. (UNESCO Periodic Report, 2011), which also impacts on the site’s OUV through for example poaching, small scale illegal logging and farming encroachment. This deficiency is to be addressed during the implementation of the (ESCAMP and NRIFAP projects 2018 onwards (IUCN Consultation, 2017).
Implementation of Committee decisions and recommendations
Mostly Effective
In general, the State Party has been responsive to Committee concerns and decisions. The State Party has been actively addressing issues and the management planning system to support the site has been recently completed (State Party of Sri Lanka, 2012). Other recommendations to expedite the development of an effective management and monitoring framework for tourism and a commitment to ensure adequate staffing and funding are still outstanding (UNESCO, 2012).
Sustainable use
Mostly Effective
Subsistence wild plant collection occurs within the site, however, other uses such as livestock grazing and crop production occurs outside (UNESCO Periodic Report, 2011). During the past few years, illegal and unsustainable removal of Sri Lankan Agarwood (Gyrinops walla) trees has been taking place in all protected areas including the Central Highlands WHS (Gunatilleke et al. 2014; Rodrigo, 2019b). Some illegal and unsustainable use is occurring in the buffer zones.
Sustainable finance
Some Concern
Funding is split approximately 1/3 from outside sources and 2/3 from governmental sources. According to the State Party, funding is inadequate and not secure (UNESCO Periodic Report, 2011). Inadequate staff capacity and funding are limiting the effective implementation of management plans and management of tourism (UNESCO, 2012). The internationally funded ESCAMP project and NRIFAP project due to start next year will provide extra funding to execute the revised and updated management plans prepared with broad stakeholder participation (IUCN Consultation, 2017).
Staff capacity, training, and development
Mostly Effective
All staff at the site are fulltime and permanent, however, their number is inadequate to fully manage the site (UNESCO Periodic Report, 2011). The Forest Department Staff training at field level (Range Forest officers and Beat Forest Officers, both new recruits and in service trainees) is currently being conducted at SL Forestry College in batches of 40 persons. Similarly, the Department of Wildlife has recruited about 50 field officers and they have been given training at HPNP Giritale Wildlife Training Center and in several other strategic locations (IUCN Consultation, 2017).
Education and interpretation programs
Mostly Effective
There are several awareness programs aired through national television network. The present day programs - Wild Asia and Sobadhara - are professionally done with advice from experts and experienced wildlife professionals. Annual Wildlife conferences held in 2015-2017 were also very successful and Wildlife Department personnel, University researchers and NGOs have all been actively participating in these annual events. The journals Wild Lanka published by the DWLC and Loris and Warana published by the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society of Sri Lanka are popular among wildlife enthusiasts and schoolchildren. A number of books on birds, butterflies, reptiles, lizards and amphibians of Sri Lanka have been published in recent times (see the reference list). Although these are not specific to the World Heritage properties, the information in them is still useful to the visitors. An authoritative book on Horton Plains NP was edited by Pethiyagoda in 2012.
Tourism and visitation management
Some Concern
There is a general lack of education programmes, information and awareness building throughout the visitor destinations of the site. Fees collected make some contribution to the management of the site (UNESCO Periodic Report, 2011). A number of educational programmes and activities have been developed recently (IUCN Consultation, 2017).
A nature-based tourism plan for the Knuckles Forest Reserve has been prepared under ESCAMP project and is being made available for implementation (Humke, 2018a and b). 
Two trekking guides, one for the Peak Wilderness Protected Area Complex and the other for the Knuckles Conservation Forest have been produced by the IUCN Sri Lanka Country Office in collaboration with Department of Wildlife Conservation (Perera et al., 2018a and b).
There is a concern regarding tourism related waste management, pollution and disturbance from vehicles, and an effective management and monitoring framework for tourism to address environmental impacts of the high number of visitors is still needed (UNESCO, 2012).
Monitoring
Mostly Effective
There is an adequate, comprehensive and integrated programme of monitoring, which addresses management needs and contributes to improving the understanding of the site’s OUV (UNESCO Periodic Report, 2011). Monitoring of tourism impacts is however lacking (UNESCO, 2012). Monitoring vegetation cover changes of Horton Plains National Park (HPNP) from 1998-2008 using a practical geo-informatics approach for adaptive management has been carried out. While the forest cover has increased, the grass cover has decreased (Abeysinghe et al. 2014). Vegetation cover changes in the grassland habitats of HPNP are being monitored parallel to the management interventions of invasive Gorse (Ulex europaeus) eradication programs and implications on other faunal and floral species are being currently studied. A decline in the Black lipped lizard population has been identified after the removal of Ulex europaeus (Jayasekara et al., 2020). 
Research
Mostly Effective
There is an increasing trend in research directed towards management needs in ensuring the maintenance of the OUV in recent times. 
A robust estimate of the population density of Sri Lanka’s apex predator in Horton Plains National Park within the montane zone has been done (Kittle and Watson, 2018b). It provides valuable baseline information for the species and region and also contributes towards a more detailed understanding of the status of the Leopard in Sri Lanka, identified as a high priority species for conservation.
A comparative biodiversity survey in two fragmented forest patches in the Central Highlands reveal that they form an important component of Sri Lanka's natural heritage and continue to act as reservoirs for future biodiversity preservation through appropriate connectivity with larger protected areas such as Knuckles reserve (Kittle et al. 2016).
Factors influencing the occurrence using occupancy modeling  required for effective conservation of Montane Slender Loris (Loris tardigradus nycticeboides), which is an endangered and endemic primate species, has shown that most suitable habitats for Montane Slender Loris occupancy was montane forests situated in 1600-2100 m altitude with tall canopy (height >4m) and good canopy connectivity (canopy openings <25%). Only 3500 ha of such forest habitats are available at present, thus the Montane Slender Loris remains under considerable threat (Gamage et al., 2015).
Feeding ecology of Sri Lankan Leopard studied by prey base (scat) analysis has shown that there is a shift to suboptimal prey indicating scarcity of primary prey species. These studies provide valuable information on prey base diversity, dynamics and habitat quality. Therefore, knowledge on the feeding ecology of the Sri Lankan Leopard is helpful in planning protected areas and an overall strategy for the conservation of this endangered species (Sooriyabandara, 2015).
The ecotourism potential of the Horton Plains National Park (HPNP) has been carried out using a catalogue of criteria (Flagship attractions, Complementary and support attractions, Accessibility and regional infrastructure, climate and general political and social frameworks) and the values for biodiversity and landscape are comparatively high at HPNP (Rathnayake, 2014).
The site enjoys adequate legal protection under Sri Lankan law and it is clear that management efforts continue to be directed at threatening processes. An overall management framework has been developed for the serial site, as well as management plans for each of the component parts of the property. A need for the development of an effective management and monitoring framework for tourism has been identified and this is underway. In order to implement these planning strategies, adequate staffing and funding need to be made available for the effective implementation of the new management plans. A number of new internationally funded projects for protected areas management have been developed recently in Sri Lanka and will also contribute to addressing some of the issues faced by the components of the property.
Assessment of the effectiveness of protection and management in addressing threats outside the site
Some Concern
The state of the buffer zones in terms of land use and current management practices varies across the three components. The buffer zones are legally protected under a range of laws, however, boundary ambiguities, inadequate staffing and funding, and poor enforcement are failing to address a range of illegal buffer zone activities such as poaching, small scale illegal logging, firewood collection and land clearing (UNESCO, 2012), as well as illegal removal of Sri Lankan Agarwood both inside and outside the property. External threats to the site are considered at present to be relatively moderate, notwithstanding the need for continued vigilance in addressing these.
Best practice examples
A proposal based on long-term research that focuses on a novel and multi-pronged means of circumventing human-leopard conflict by establishing ‘wildlife corridors’ to give the leopards - and other creatures - safe passage through the Central Highlands, thus reducing encounters with human beings.
Watson and Kittle won the prestigious Whitley Award for Nature in April 2018 for their project on ‘Leopards as a flagship for wildlife corridors’: //roar.media/english/life/environment-wildlife/of-tea-estates-leopards-and-the-prestigious-green-oscars-a-conservation-story/
Two populations of endemic and critically endangered species (Hedyotes quinquinervia) have been recollected after 100 years from Horton Plains National Park in a new geographic location for this species and a few individuals have been planted and being monitored at the Hakgala Montane Botanic Gardens for its success in ex-situ conditions (Harasgama et al., 2014).
World Heritage values

A critical habitat refuge for several globally significant and endangered species

High Concern
Trend
Deteriorating
Threats such as invasive species, impacts of increased tourism and other ecosystem modifications such as forest dieback and climate change are all affecting the site’s habitats. Despite these threats, the values remain preserved overall (IUCN Consultation, 2017) and threats are being addressed. However, conversion of wetlands to agricultural plots, gem-mining, snare-trapping of leopards, illegal collection of plants and animals for trade and forest encroachment are on the increase (Kottawa-Arachchi, 2017; Rodrigo, 2020). 

Important and significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of threatened and endemic vertebrate species

High Concern
Trend
Deteriorating
Several invasive species, both flora and fauna, have been identified in the property that could have a significant impact on the habitat value of the site. Eradication programs are addressing the problems of invasive alien species (State Party of Sri Lanka, 2012). Forest dieback occurs on the slopes of Horton Plains National Park (HPNP) and is believed to be due to a fungal pathogen. On-going research is yet to find a solution to the problem (State Party of Sri Lanka, 2012). Boundary ambiguities, inadequate staffing and funding, and poor enforcement are failing to address a range of illegal buffer zone activities such as poaching, small scale illegal logging, firewood collection and land clearing (UNESCO, 2012), which are impacting also on the property values. Illegal removal of Sri Lankan Agarwood both inside and outside the property is an emerging concern. Natural habitats of HPNP have been identified as important refuge areas for three of the threatened agamid fauna of the island; Black lipped lizard (Calotes nigrilabris), Rhino-horned lizard (Ceratophora stoddartii) and Pigmy lizard (Cophotis ceylanica). Recent population assessments have shown that their population levels are relatively low and declining (Jayasekara et al., 2020). In conclusion, the habitat values of the site still remain fairly intact despite the presence of threatening processes, which will need on-going management efforts, continued vigilance and adequate staffing and funding to address.

Ecological and biological processes which support the sub-montane and montane rainforests of Sri Lanka

Low Concern
Trend
Stable
The formulation of both an overall management framework for the site and individual management plans for each of the three component parts has assisted in addressing threats to the OUV of the site in a coordinated and planned way (State Party of Sri Lanka, 2012). The impacts of tourism, which are of particular concern in PWPA, are covered in an action plan that is formulated prior to the pilgrim season in December each year. This plan concentrates on garbage removal, providing toilet facilities and visitor awareness programs. Nevertheless, there remains a need to monitor the impacts of tourists on the ecological values of the site and to adapt management accordingly (UNESCO, 2012).
Assessment of the current state and trend of World Heritage values
High Concern
Trend
Deteriorating
The values of the site are being impacted  by the spread of invasive species, impacts of increasing tourism, human population pressures and other ecosystem modifications, which will need on-going management effort and adequate staffing and funding. There remains a need to fully develop a management and monitoring framework for tourism. This is essential as the high number of visitors, including pilgrims, has an increasing environmental impact on the site. There remains a need for clearer demarcation of the property boundaries. Illegal activities are still being undertaken in the property’s buffer zones, including poaching, small scale illegal logging and land clearing and more effective law enforcement could address this.

Additional information

History and tradition,
Sacred natural sites or landscapes
Adam’s Peak in PWPA has deep religious significance as it is believed to have the imprint of the footprint of the Lord Buddha. This phenomenon brings huge numbers of tourists and pilgrims each year to the peak summit beyond the carrying capacity during the peak season from January to April each year from three main pilgrim trails.
Factors negatively affecting provision of this benefit
Climate change
Impact level - Low
Trend - Continuing
Pollution
Impact level - High
Trend - Increasing
Overexploitation
Impact level - Moderate
Trend - Increasing
Invasive species
Impact level - Moderate
Trend - Continuing
Habitat change
Impact level - Low
Trend - Increasing
Disturbance to the forest along the pilgrim trails is cumulative year on year.  Pollution of streams and excessive loads of garbage left behind by pilgrims is also a serious concern. However, there are volunteers including police and armed forces who, at the end of the pilgrim season conduct cleaning-up operations from the top to the bottom of the peak.
Health and recreation,
Outdoor recreation and tourism
The increase in the annual number of tourists to the site brings an increase in opportunities for employment for locals including tour guides, as well as the employment that goes with providing services for tourists and maintaining the areas that are heavily visited. It is not clear the extent to which benefits from tourism are being maximised.
Factors negatively affecting provision of this benefit
Overexploitation
Impact level - High
Trend - Increasing
Environmental services,
Water provision (importance for water quantity and quality)
The protection of the forests as a catchment area provides water resources for the many communities downstream and on the periphery of the site.
The protection of biodiversity and water resources underpins Sri Lanka’s sustainable development and landscape productivity, for example its extensive tea plantations. More specific to this site is its importance in the development of an eco-tourism industry to capitalise on the already huge numbers of tourists and pilgrims who flock to the site.
Organization Brief description of Active Projects Website
1 Forest Department/ Community Groups Approximately 600 Community Based Organizations (CBOs) are operating in the buffer zone villages. These community organizations have been formed to implement various community development programs. The Forest Department has been working with 32 such organizations established exclusively for the protection of Knuckles under the name “Dumbara Surakinno” (Protectors of Knuckles). These works include implementing the department’s regular community forestry programs.
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2 Forest Department/ Department of Wildlife Conservation Management of catchment area within KCF by removal of invasive species, fire protection and removal of cardamom cultivation. Funding for this has been made through the Moragahakanda irrigation project. The program to remove invasive eucalypts found mainly in Pitawala Patana grassland, and Lantana in other areas, will continue until all identified areas are cleared of invasive species.
.
3 Friends of Horton’s Plains A consortium of private sector estates and other partners working with HPNP to enhance conservation and connectivity.
IUCN Sri Lanka

References

References
1
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2
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3
Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE) http://www.zeroextinction.org Accessed July 2013
4
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5
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6
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7
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13
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14
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15
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16
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17
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18
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19
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20
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21
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22
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23
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24
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25
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26
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27
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28
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29
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30
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31
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32
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33
34
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35
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36
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37
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38
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39
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40
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41
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42
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43
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44
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45
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46
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47
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48
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