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Uttrakhand’s forest conserves over 1,500 plant species, list to be updated annually

On the occasion of World Environment Day, The Uttrakhand Forest Department released a list of 1,576 plant species conserved in the state, including those unique to the Himalayan region.

Sanjiv Chaturvedi, CCF, Uttrakhand Forest Department Research Wing told PBNS that the initiative was taken by the Uttrakhand Forest Department to counter the concept of ‘plant blindness’, create awareness against conservational issues and the threat it poses to plant biodiversity.

What is the report?

The comprehensive report released by the Uttrakhand Forest Department includes the list of 1,576 plant species conserved through in-situ and ex-situ measures. Out of these, 1,507 species have been identified while 69 are yet to be identified.

Among the conserved species are 416 tree species, 115 shrub species, 130 herb species, 37 bamboo species, 76 wild climbers, 89 grass species, 9 cane species, 87 orchid species, 96 fern species, 89 grass species, 67 palm species, and many others.

The conservation programme aims to understand, document, and recognise plant diversity.

Last year, the research wing of Uttarakhand Forest Department had conserved a total of 1,145 species through in-situ and ex-situ conservation measures.Starting this year, the report will be updated annually in April.

Plant Blindness

The term, ‘plant blindness’ was coined in 1998 by Elisabeth Schussler and James Wandersee, a pair of US botanists and biology educators. They described it as “the inability to see or notice the plants in one’s own environment”. Plant blindness results in an under-appreciation of plants and refers to a limited interest in plant conservation.

Rare/threatened species

The Uttrakhand Forest Department has been conserving species of plants that are rare or threatened in nature.

Of the 1,576 plant species conserved by the Research Wing of Uttrakhand, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) categorisation, a total of 11 species among these are critically endangered, 20 species are endangered, 11 species are vulnerable, 13 are near-threatened.

On the other hand, as per Environmental Information System (ENVIS) categorisation, 1 species is endangered, 3 species are vulnerable, and 4 species are rare. As per the BSI, 5 plant species are critically endangered, 8 are endangered, and 5 are vulnerable.

According to the Uttarakhand Biodiversity Board,13 plant species are threatened. While according to the Indian Biodiversity portal, 1 species is critically endangered, 2 species are on the endangered list, 4 species are vulnerable and 3 species in the rare category.

Unique/ Endemic to Indian Himalayan Region

Among the various species conserved in the forest, 61 plant species are endemic, of which 35 are near-endemic, 7 are endemic to Uttrakhand, and 10 to the Indian Himalayan region. 9 species are also endemic to India. Endemic refers to those species that are native and only found in a particular place.

Plants like ‘Tumri’, ‘Meetha vish’, ‘Tejpat’, ‘Kaula’, ‘Jamoi’, ‘Patwa’, ‘Moru’, ‘Akhrot’, ‘Deodara’, ‘Bhimal’ and several others are endemic species to Uttrakhand and the Indian Himalayan region.

Plants on the list

A total of 464 species conserved have medicinal properties. To name a few, these include, ‘Bargad’, ‘Nervosa’, ‘Sandpaper fig’, ‘Peepal’, ‘Punjab fig’ and ‘Betuliwali bel’.

Plants like ‘Titmila’, ‘Khaina’, ‘Dudhla’,’Pilkhan’ are used for fodder while some have edible and other uses. Some other plants being conserved here are ‘Gular’, ‘Pakhad’, ‘White Fig’, ‘Shalshi’ and many more.

Uttrakhand’s flora and fauna

Uttarakhand is a part of the Indian Himalayan Region (IHR) and home to a vast variety of floral and fauna.

According to the website of Uttrakhand Tourism, the State is home to around 4,000 species of plants, that belong to 1,198 genera under 192 families. Among these, 161 species are recognised as rare or threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Uttrakhand is also home to 150 of 223 species of orchids found in North India. It also provides shelter to about 102 species of mammals, 623 types of avifauna, 124 varieties of fish, 19 types of amphibians, and 69 categories of reptiles.

Uttrakhand is the first State in the country to take the initiative of releasing a list of conserved plant species. Meanwhile, in another positive story, Minister of Law & Justice, Ravi Shankar Prasad, on June 5 shared that India has increased its forest and tree cover by 15,000 square km in the last six years.

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