Thiruvananthapuram

Plant diversity in coastal areas under threat: study

Punna (Calophyllum inophyllum), an ethno-botanically important plant found in the coastal areas of Kerala, is among the species facing threat

Punna (Calophyllum inophyllum), an ethno-botanically important plant found in the coastal areas of Kerala, is among the species facing threat  

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Human activities responsible for habitat degradation, say experts

As many as 225 plant species traditionally used by coastal communities in southern Kerala for food, medicine, fodder, artefacts and other purposes could soon be struggling for survival unless conservation measures are initiated on a war footing, a survey conducted by the Jawaharlal Nehru Tropical Botanic Garden and Research Institute (JNTBGRI) has revealed.

The ethnobotanical survey of the coastal belt in Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam and Alappuzha points out that pollution, deforestation, indiscriminate development of coastal tourism infrastructure and unscientific coastal protection are posing a serious threat to the biodiversity in the coastal areas.

Species documented

The survey team has documented 14 edible species, 176 medicinal herbs and 14 fodder yielding plants, besides plants used for other purposes by fisherfolk and other local communities in eight panchayats, two municipalities and a Corporation.

The scientists have selected ethnobotanically important species for further research.

“Though extensive work has been done to document the traditional knowledge of the tribal communities in the Western Ghats of Kerala, there has been no systematic ethnobotanical survey among the coastal communities. This project is an attempt to address this lacuna,” says K. Radhakrishnan, principal investigator of the project.

“Conservation of most of the species is critical to the very survival of the coastal ecosystem in Kerala.”

A herbarium of notable coastal plant species has been created on the JNTBGRI campus and the research team is preparing a database on the diverse use of plants in traditional knowledge systems.

For example, while Sambar Cheera ( Talinum portulacifolium), Valaripayar ( Canavalia gladiate) and Ammumapazham ( Passiflora foetida) are edible species, the wood of the Punna ( Calophyllum inophyllum) is used to build boats and the seed oil for waterproofing the wood as well as a cure for rheumatism.

The leaf and flower of the Adambu Valli ( Ipomoea pes-caprae) are traditionally used to colour fishing nets.

Awareness campaign

Dr. Radhakrishnan said the research team had also taken up an awareness campaign to sensitise local people to the threats posed by human activities and promote conservation of plant diversity

The scientists have suggested the establishment of natural history museums and libraries in each of the coastal panchayats to document and showcase the diversity of plants and their use in traditional knowledge systems. The coastal areas in Ernakulam district will be surveyed in the next phase of the project.

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Printable version | Nov 22, 2019 8:19:45 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Thiruvananthapuram/plant-diversity-in-coastal-areas-under-threat-study/article6532670.ece

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