The mak­ing of phumdi

Down to Earth - - WILDLIFE -

SAN­GAI IS called the danc­ing deer. How­ever, it is not the San­gai that dances, but the pe­cu­liar na­ture of its habi­tat that lends this trait. While tread­ing through phumdi (grass­lands that float on wa­ter), the San­gai's hooves sink in the spongy, moist ground which from a dis­tance looks as if it is danc­ing.

Ac­cord­ing to Kh Shamungao, a re­tired pro­fes­sor of zool­ogy and ad­viser to the Ma­nipur State Board for Wildlife, the phumdi plays an im­por­tant role in the eco­log­i­cal pro­cesses and func­tions of Lok­tak Lake, the habi­tat of the San­gai. "They sup­port the rich bio­di­ver­sity and gov­ern the wa­ter qual­ity and nu­tri­ent dy­nam­ics of the lake," he writes in En­dan­gered Ma­nipur Brow Antlered Deer: An En­vi­ron­men­tal As­sess­ment.

The high pro­por­tion of hu­mus mat­ter in the phumdi gives it a low spe­cific grav­ity and high buoy­ancy, caus­ing it to float in a loose for­ma­tion. The float­ing mass con­tin­ues to ac­cu­mu­late more soil par­ti­cles and hu­mus which ac­cel­er­ates the growth of the plants. Depend­ing on the com­po­si­tion of the plants, an 80-100 cm thick phumdi can hold the weight of an adult San­gai and a hu­man be­ing. A large patch of phumdi, 20 m long, 10 m broad and 2 m thick can easily sup­port one small hut with four to five per­sons. Dur­ing the dry months, the phumdi can set­tle at the bot­tom, and the rootlets of the veg­e­ta­tion can draw nu­tri­ents from the soil layer. Even dur­ing these months it re­tains its swampy na­ture.

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