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One of the Biggest plant conservation report of its kind released: Will it cure Plant Blindness as well?

By Rakesh Ranjan- 26 May 2020


One of the biggest reports on plant species conservation in India was on Sunday released making Uttarakhand the first state to release a unique report highlighting its conservation efforts to save over 1,145 rare plants from extinction.


The research and conservation project was conducted and compiled by the whistleblower IFS officer Sanjiv Chaturvedi and his team of bright budding researchers. As per the report as many as 1,145 plant species have been conserved out of which 46 species are endemic to Uttarakhand and 68 species are rare, endangered or threatened, under the red list of International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) or under state biodiversity board.


It covers all classes of plants - tree, shrub, herb, bamboo, wild climbers, fern, orchid, grass, cane, alpine flowers, palm, cycad, cactus, succulent, aquatic species, insectivorous plants and even lower plants like moss, lichen and algae, which have been documented, classified and conserved for the first time.


The project aimed at germplasm conservation so that species remain conserved with the forest department even if they disappear from their natural habitat in the wild. Conservation of endemic species is considered to be particularly important as they exist in one geographical region only.


The conservation programme includes herbs like Ashwagandha, Giloy, Kalmegh and Chitrak, Brahmkamal and mythological ‘Sanjeevani’ herb as well. Brahmkamal, the state flower of Uttarakhand is considered sacred. It is found at over 12,000 feet altitude in the Himalayan region bordering China, It is used as antiseptic and for treatment of other ailments.


Sanjeevani (Selaginella bryopteris) is another rare herb which has found a mention in Ramayan. Similarly, Thuner (Taxusbaccata), a tree found at very high altitude in Himalayan region and at the verge of extinction because of extraction of ‘taxol’, used in treating breast cancer, and Bhojpatra -- a holy tree on the bark of which ancient scriptures were written -- being the last species in tree line, are also conserved by the Uttarakhand forest department. Bhojpatra (Betulautilis) is found in the Himalayan region at around 10,000 ft altitude, before the start of glaciers.


Some of the famous and endangered plant species conserved are Chandan, Raktchandan, Ritha, Vajradanti, Jatamasi, Dhoop, Badritulsi, Sita Ashok, Mithavish, Sarpgandha, Brahmi, Salampanja (orchid), Kalmegha, and Buransh among others.


The project gathers importance because the present extinction rate of plant species has reached up to 5-7 species per year. Chaturvedi said that the ambitious conservation endeavor would end ‘plant blindness’, a term coined by US botanist Elisabeth Schussler and James Wandersee in 1998, which underlines the ironies of forest conservation regime. Presently most of the conservation efforts and public attention, funds are diverted into the conservation of glamorous megafauna species like tiger, elephant etc, completely neglecting plant conservation while they play a much more important ecological role. Chaturvedi further added that plants play a more important role in sustaining human life in terms of carbon sequestration, the supply of oxygen, air purification, for food security in terms of the gene pool of wild species, and providing valuable biochemical and bio-molecules in preparation of various medicines.

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