Coimbatore

Expert group to assess threats to plant species in the Nilgiris

Members of the Western Ghats Plant Specialist Group in Udhagamandalam.   | Photo Credit: Sathyamoorthy M

Threats to endemic flora in the Western Ghats will be assessed by experts comprising the Western Ghats Plant Specialist Group (WGPSG).

Members of the WGPSG of the Species Survival Commission of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) met here recently, to chart a future course of study of endemic plant species in the Nigiris and across the Western Ghats. “The study of these species will include documentation, assessing the threats they face as well as understanding their distribution in local landscapes,” said Aparna Watve, Red List Assessment Coordinator for the group. There were more than 2,100 endemic species of flora across the Western Ghats.

Dr. Watve said that the WGPSG hopes to formulate conservation policies for specific species of flora as well as habitats through documentation and research by members of the group, comprising over 50 botanists, conservationists and landscape researchers familiar with the Western Ghats ecology.

Anita Varghese, the Chair of WGPSG, and Director-Biodiversity of Keystone Foundation, a Nilgiris-based NGO, said that existing studies done by local conservation groups and experts will provide a “solid base” that will help in establishing conservation policies that can ensure the long-term survival of a variety of flora threatened by localised extinction.

Shiny Mariam Rehel, Programme Co-ordinator for the Biodiversity Restoration Programme at Keystone Foundation, said that in the Nilgiris, particular focus needs to be given to the conservation of flora found in hill wetlands, swamps and high altitudes.

Ms. Rehel said that plants such as Anaphalis neelgerryana, Elaeocarpus recurvatus and grasses such as Eriochrysis rangacharii face a number of threats, including habitat loss, climate change and being outcompeted by invasive species.

Godwin Vasanth Bosco, a Nilgiris-based restoration ecologist, said that it was of paramount importance that endemic species of flora are properly studied and species that are facing the most serious threats, such as Eriochrysis rangacharii be added to the IUCN’s red list, so that steps can be taken to conserve the species.

“Adding these species to the red list after suitable studies are conducted, can add visibility to the threats they face, and eventually could lead to conservation plans being drawn up to ensure their survival in the long-term,” he said.

Also present at the meeting was Aditya Gadkari, who is working with the WGPSG. “We hope that the work we do raises awareness among the public about native flora. We urge people to follow our social media page – ‘Western Ghats Plant Specialist Group’ on Facebook and Instagram to get regular updates about the work that the group is doing,” said Mr. Gadkari.

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Printable version | Mar 9, 2021 11:13:11 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Coimbatore/expert-group-to-assess-threats-to-plant-species-in-the-nilgiris/article33651736.ece

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