Validation and documentation of rare endemic and threatened (RET) plants from Nilgiri, Kanuvai and Madukkarai forests of southern Western Ghats, India
K.M. Prabhu Kumar 1, V. Sreeraj 2, Binu Thomas 3, K.M. Manudev 4 & A. Rajendran 5
1,2,3,5 Department of Botany, Bharathiar University, Tamil Nadu 641046, India
4 Department of Botany, St. Joseph’s College Devagiri, Kozhikode, Kerala 673008, India
Email: 1 firstname.lastname@example.org, 2 email@example.com, 3 firstname.lastname@example.org (corresponding author), 4 email@example.com, 5 firstname.lastname@example.org,
According to Nayar (1996) there are 60 endemic genera and 2,015 species of flowering plants endemic to peninsular India. The Western Ghats possess a high percentage of endemic species, about 48% of 4000 species occur in this region (Gopalan & Henry 2000). The Western Ghats are on the brink of endemic plant collapse, about 1500 species have a highly fragmented population and at least 50 endemic species have not be relocated after repeated surveys (Nayar 1998).
The current paper is an attempt to study the conservation assessment of rare, endemic and threatened species (RET) of the southern Western Ghats. As part of the Nilgiri Landscape Restoration Programme conducted by the British Council International Climate Champions in association with the Tamil Nadu Forest Department, (Nilgiris North & South Divisions), British Council India, Earth Trust Nilgiris, Edhkwelynawd Botanical Refuge, Nilgiris; the first author visited and validated the RET plants of Kolikorai, Melcoupe, Ammagal, Mukurthy National Park (MNP) and Doddabetta forests of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. After that a detailed field survey was carried out by the authors in Kolikorai, Melcoupe, Kil Kothagiri, Longwood Shola and Kothagiri forests of Nilgiris with the help of Earth Trust Nilgiris, and many plants were identified and documented. As a part of this we also studied the status of RET plants in the Madukkarai Hills and Kanuvai Hills of Coimbatore District and recorded the details systematically.
The Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve (NBR) is a part of SWG and a place of incredible diversity in landscape and life. It lies between 10045’–120N & 760–77°15’E with a total area of 5520km2 spread across the three states of Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Altitude within the NBR varies from 250–2670 m, and the reserve encompasses a diversity of vegetation types, ranging from tropical evergreen to thorny scrub (Chandrasekhara 2005). NBR is one of the hot spots of the world with many rare, endemic and threatened plants (Fyson 1932; Nayar 1996).
Madukkarai is located at 10.90N & 76.970E along the hill sides of the southern Western Ghats of Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu and also a part of Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. The name “Madukkarai” originated from the colloquial use of the words “Mathil” (means great wall in Tamil) + “Karai” (means shore in Tamil). It has one of the oldest cement plants in India. The temperature ranges from 47.50C and 160C respectively (Jayanthi et al. 2011). Kanuvai Hills are located near Maruthamalai forests and the vegetation types are tropical dry deciduous forests and thorn shrub forests.
Result and Discussion: The present study is an enumeration of 51 selected endemic species belonging to 39 genera, 28 families and two subfamilies documented from different forests in Tamil Nadu. Among them Berberis nilghiriensis Ahrendt is one of the Critically Endangered (B1+2c) species and collected by the authors from Ammagal forests of NBR. Many rare species were also collected from the study area including Crotalaria scabra Gamble, Murdannia lanuginosa (Wall. ex Clarke) Brueck. (Nayar & Sastry 1990), Smilax wightii A. DC., Elaeocarpus recurvatus Corner (Nayar & Sastry 1990), Litsea wightiana (Nees) Hook. f. var. tomentosa (Meissner) Gamble and Dalbergia congesta Graham ex Wight (Sasidharan 2006).
Lauraceae and Fabaceae are the dominant families having eight species each, Acanthaceae and Apocynaceae with three species, Berberidaceae, Gentianaceae, Myrtaceae and Scrophulariaceae with two species and all the other remaining families having one species each. The correct botanical identity, common names (if available), family, habit, habitat, locality and endemism of documented species are given in the table with colour photos (Table 1, Images 1–3).
Conclusion: The Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve is one of the most diverse floristic areas of India with a mixture of both exotic and native species. From the present study the authors properly validated and documented many RET plants from NBR, Madukkarai and Kanuvai Hills of Coimbatore District, Tamil Nadu. Some of the threatened factors such as over-exploitation of natural resources and other anthropogenic activities adversely affect the existing ecosystem and it may lead to the rarity of many species in future. There is an urgent need for developing pragmatic conservation strategies for endemic plants in the southern Western Ghats, which may lead to their effective protection.
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