Ecology and conservation of threatened plants in Tapkeshwari Hill ranges in the Kachchh Island, Gujarat, India
P.N. Joshi 1, Ekta B. Joshi 2 & B.K. Jain 3
1 Sahjeevan, 175-Jalaram Society, Vijay Nagar, Bhuj, Kachchh, Gujarat 370001, India
2 Matruchhaya Kanya Vidhyalay, Matruchhaya Road, Bhuj, Kachchh, Gujarat 370001, India
3 M.G. Science Institute, Gujarat Uiniversity, Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org (corresponding author), email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Zietsman et al. (2008) stated that small and isolated populations often suffer from disrupted biological interactions. Nearly 1500 species of higher plants in India are listed as threatened, most of which are angiosperms (Daniels & Jayanthi 1996). These plants have their own ecological role in the ecosystem and therefore, the conservation status of lesser known plant species and isolated populations need to be assessed both within individual populations and at the metapopulation level (Shaw & Burns 1997). There is reported work in the past in Tapkeshwar Hill Range (THR) on threatened species, especially their ecological requirements. This study is intended to highlight the status and distribution of the species in the study area, the ecological characteristics necessary for their survival, and the threats faced by some of the species designated by following the criteria devised by WCMC and IUCN (Nayar & Sastry 1988; WCMC 1994; Bhandari et al. 1996; GES et al. 2002).
The study area (Tapkeshwari Hill Range - THR) of more than 140km2 (14,400ha) covering nine villages under two taluks, i.e. Bhuj and Mundra was surveyed (Image 1). THR is the largest unexplored hilly tract in the district. It is close to Bhuj City, the district headquarters (7km) and provides a high diversity of floral species in various vegetation types or habitats like Euphorbia scrubs, Prosopis scrubs, thorn mixed scrubs, open scrubs, thorn mixed forests with Acacia senegal, A. nilotica and Salvadora mixed (Image 2). Considering the high floral diversity and unique vegetation assemblage of this range, it has been suggested that, this tract and adjoining sites may be declared as Ecologically Sensitive Areas (ESA) (Joshi 2002).
The selected hill ranges experience extremes of weather condition and have three seasons, consisting of winter, summer and monsoon—winter (November to February; minimum averaging 100C), summer (March to June; maximum 38.70C) and monsoon (July to September; average 394.7mm in 2007-2009 and for 16.2 days).
The survey was conducted in the study areas wherever rare, endangered and threatened (RET) plant taxa were said to exist, based on information in the literature (Nayar & Sastry 1988; WCMC 1994; GES et al. 2002). In addition, other adjoining areas, which had similar habitat types where the plants were seen during the survey, were also searched. A combination of belt transects with centred quadrates method were used for sampling. Belt transects of 5m width and length extending to the entire width of the patch were laid. Within this belt, species specific search was carried out and once a target species was located, a species-centred circular plot of 5m radius in the case of shrubs and 1 to 2 m radius in the case of herbs were laid. In case of abundance of plants, belt transects radiating from the edge of the aquatic body in eight directions were laid to assess the number, and the extent of their spread from the main microhabitat was used to record all other parameters as above.
IUCN- RET Plants Reports
Thirteen plant species categorized as threatened by the World Conservation Monitoring Centre (WCMC 1994) and also listed under various threat categories in the Red Data Book of Indian Plants (Nayar & Sastry 1988) were surveyed in the THR. In many rare species classifications, including the Red Book listings of the IUCN, two types of rarity—natural and induced—are not always clearly distinguished. Some species that are naturally rare are also ranked as threatened with extinction. While naturally rare species can be more vulnerable to extinction than common ones, rarity in itself is not synonymous with extinction threat. Understanding the difference between natural and induced rarity is important for focusing conservation efforts.
Out of the 19 RET plants recorded so far from Kachchh (Shah 1978; Nayar & Sastry 1988; Raole 1993; WCMC 1994; GES et al. 2002), 13 taxa were located in the study area: six herbs, four undershrubs, two shrubs and one climber. Among these, Dipcadi erythraeum, Dactyliandra welwitschii, Indigofera caerulea var. monosperma and Pavonia ceratocarpa had very low numbers, i.e. 9, 13, 16 and 19 individuals, respectively, and had highly restricted distribution in THR. Commiphora wightii, Ipomoea kotschyana, Helichrysum cutchicum and Campylanthus ramosissimus showed wider distribution and had 612, 440, 245 and 235 individuals, respectively (Table 1). The details on abundance, habitats and threats of each taxon with their present status mentioned by different authorities are given in Table 1.
Distribution and age structure status
Overall distribution status of RET taxa in the study area: All the RET plants reported from the study area occupied eight major habitat types, of which thorn mixed scrub, open scrub and Acacia senegal forest harbored the highest number (10 in each) of taxa. The second highest number of taxa (9) was recorded from thorn mixed forest and Euphorbia scrub and so on (Table 2). Interestingly, thorns mixed forest harbored the highest number of individuals (560) of all RET plants, followed by open scrub (345 individuals), Acacia senegal forest (328), thorn mixed scrub (293) and so on (Fig. 1).
Campylanthus ramosissimus, Ipomoea kotschyana and Pavonia ceratocarpa were restricted to a single favorable habitat, viz., open scrub, thorn mixed forest and Euphorbia scrub respectively. Commiphora wightii, Convolvulus stocksii, Ephedra foliata and Helichrysum cutchicum also showed more affinity to the thorn mixed scrub (31.37%), thorn mixed forest (44.88%), thorn mixed forest (45.45%) and Acacia senegal forest (30.20%) respectively (Table 2).
Quantification of the reproductive stage of annual herbaceous plants is difficult when compared to bushy perennials because of their smaller size and very short life spans. It is further complicated if it has restricted distribution and low abundance. Within the sample area, field observation showed that except Helichrysum cutchicum, all other RET plant species are reported with very low seedlings and regeneration ratio (Table 3) when compared with the adult plants. In addition, low abundance of some RET plant species could be inherent and for others it may be failure of regeneration.
Atal, C.K., O.P. Gupta & S.H. Abag (1975). Commiphora mukul: Sources of Guggal in Indian Systems of Medicine. Economic Botany 29: 208–218.
Bhandari, M.M., D.D. Kaushik & N.S. Shekhawat (1996). Rare, Threatened and Endangered Plants of the Indian Desert - An Action Plan for their Conservation. Final consolidated report submitted to Department of Biotechnology, Govt. of India, New Delhi, 122pp.
Bhandari, M.M. (1990). Flora of the Indian Desert. Scientific Publishers. Jodhpur, Rajasthan, 435pp.
Bole, P.V. & J.M. Pathak (1988). The Flora of Saurashtra (Part-II). Botanical Survey of India (BSI), P-8. Brabourne Road Calcutta, 302pp.
Coates, F., I.D. Lunt & R.L. Tremblay (2006). Effects of disturbance on population dynamics of the threatened orchid Prasophyllum correctum D.L. Jones and implications for grassland management in south-eastern Australia. Biological Conservation 129: 59–69.
Cooke, T. (1958). The Flora of the Presidency of Bombay. Reprinted - Botanical Survey of India, Calcutta, 574pp.
Daniels, R.J.R. & M. Jayanthi (1996). Biology and conservation of endangered plants: The need to study breeding systems. Tropical Ecology 37(1): 39–42.
de Lange, P.J. & D.A. Norton (2004). The ecology and conservation of Kunzea sinclairii (Myrtaceae), a naturally rare plant of rhyolitic rock outcrops. Biological Conservation 117: 49–59.
Dixit, A.M. & S.V.S. Rao (2000). Observation on distribution and habitat characteristics of Gugal (Commiphora wightii) in the arid region of Kachchh, Gujarat (India). Tropical Ecology 41 (1): 81–88.
GES, MSU & GUIDE (2002). Conservation of rare and endangered biodiversity of Gujarat. Final Project Report submitted to Gujarat Ecology Commission, Vadodara, 428pp.
GUIDE (2009). Establishment of Medicinal Plants Conservation Areas (MPCAs) of Highly Traded and Rare Medicinal Species in Kachchh Saline Desert. Gujarat Institute of Desert Ecology (GUIDE); Bhuj-Kachchh (Gujarat), India, 107pp.
Joshi, P.N. (2002). Study of Ethnobotanical Angiosperms of Bhuj and Mandvi Talukas of Kachchh, Gujarat. PhD Thesis. Department of Botany, Bhavnagar University, Bhavnagar, 341pp.
Joshi, P.N., J. Joshua & S.F.W. Sunderraj (2004). Population structure and dynamics of threatened plant species in Bhuj and Mandvi Talukas of Kachchh District. Advances in Biological Sciences 3: 13–17.
Kumar, A. & M.M. Bhandari (1994). Commiphora wightii –A threatened medicinal plant of the Thar Pradesh. In: Etnobiology in Human Welfare. Abstracts of the 4th International congress of Ethnobiology, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India, 17–21 November, 307pp.
Nayar, M.P. & A.R.K. Sastry (1988). Red Data Book of Indian Plants—Vol. 2. Botanical Survey of India. Calcutta, 271pp.
Pykala, J. (2007). Implementation of Forest Act habitats in Finland: Does it protect the right habitats for threatened species? Forest Ecology and Management 242: 281–287.
Rao, K.S.S. (1981). Studies on the flora of South Eastern Kutch. Ph.D Thesis. M.S. University, Vadodara.
Raole, V.M. (1993). Studies on endangered and endemic desert taxa. PhD Thesis. Department of Botany, M.S. University, Vadodara.
Sabnis, S.D. & K.S.S. Rao (1983). Observation on some rare and endangered endemics of south eastern Kachchh, pp. 71–77. In: Jain, S.K. & R.R. Rao (eds.). Assessment of Threatened Plants of India. Botanical Survey of India, Howrah.
Shah, G.L. (1978). Flora of Gujarat State. University Press, Sardar Patel University. Vallabh Vidyanagar, 1074pp.
Shaw, W.B. & B.R. Burns (1997). The ecology and conservation of the endangered endemic shrub, Kowhai Ngutukaka Clianthus puniceus in New Zealand. Biological Conservation 81: 233–245.
Silori, C.S., A.M. Dixit, L. Gupta & N. Mistry (2005). Observation on medicinal plant richness and associated conservation issues in district Kachchh, Gujarat, Trivedi, P.C. (ed.). In: Medicinal Plants: Utilization and Conservation. Rajasthan University, Rajasthan.
Tian, Z., C. Weilie, Z. Changming, C. Yue & Z. Binghui (2007). Plant biodiversity and its conservation strategy in the inundation and resettlement districts of the Yangtze Three Gorges, China. Acta Ecologica Sinica 27(8): 3110−3118.
WCMC (1994). Status report as of 24 November 1994, Gujarat, Printout from plant database BG- BASE. World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
Zietsman, J., L.L. Dreyer & K.J. Esler (2008). Reproductive biology and ecology of selected rare and endangered Oxalis L. (Oxalidaceae) plant species. Biological Conservation 141: 1475–1483.