Endangering Plant species: What’s our backup plan? – Erakina

Human greed has brought us to witness times that we are surviving at the cost of losing many plant species. Plants are the powerhouses of the earth supplying oxygen, preventing soil erosion, and, in the long run, facilitating the climate (optimum rain and predictable seasons). With activities like deforestation, adversities of the climatic conditions, 6147 species (as of 2016) of plants were endangered or critically endangered.

What is an endangered plant species?

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) classifies the species into seven categories based on its threat. And the plant species that pose a threat to go extinct in the near future are called endangered plant species. 

Luckily, few intellectual people in the world who understand the gravity of the situation promote conservation activities to save the endangered.

These conservation practices can be broadly classified into two types

  • Ex-situ conservation – Plants are taken away from the natural habitat and conserved.

Ex-situ conservation of plants is possible considering the viability of the seed, stability of the genes, etc. To put this in simple words, the survival capacity of the plant helps the conservationist decide the method. Let’s see how a plant can be conserved ex-situ-ly.

  • Genebanks–  A place specific to store the genetic material of plants. If that genetic material is the seed, we call it the seed bank. Some others are – invitro storage and freezing cuttings (vegetative propagating material) of plants.

A seed bank is a secured place for medium to long-term conservation, free from pests and diseases of numerous species in a relatively small space.

The Doomsday seed bank of Norway is the most famous gene bank working on safeguarding genetic material and ensuring food security when hit by natural calamities. Navadhanya, an organization in India, has 150 community-based seed banks across 22 states of India. Involving people in conserving indigenous varieties of India is the USP of this organization.
For further info, visit https://www.navdanya.org/site/living-seed/navdanya-seed-banks.

  • In-vitro collections For a plant that takes a longer time to grow and yield seeds, the in-vitro technique can be used. Here any vegetative tissue of the plant is used to develop it into a new plant.
  • Cryopreservation Plant material can be cryopreserved (at -196 degrees) for long-term storage of germplasm that can’t be stored as dry seed at subzero temperatures. The primary requirements are that plant material must (1) survive freezing before storage and thawing after storage and (2) be regenerated into entire plants for usage while maintaining genetic stability.
  • In-situ conservation Plants are taken care of in their natural habitat without causing any disturbance. 

The spaces restricted to keep the humans away from it to avoid occupation, and importantly exploitation of resources is called Protected areas. About 5.03 percent of the geographical area of India is under protected areas as national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, conservation, and community biosphere reserves.

Biosphere reserves all across India

Pachmarhi Biosphere Reserve, located in the Satpura Mountain range of Madhya Pradesh, has much endemic flora and fauna. It encloses three wildlife conservation units: Bori and Pachmarhi sanctuary and Satpura National Park. It carries rich reserves of Timber (Teak and Sal) and diverse vegetation.

Similarly, an exclusive sanctuary called Bhagmara Pitcher Plant Sanctuary,  spread across 2.7 hectares, is created to protect the native Indian Pitcher plant (Nepenthes khasiana). It is an insectivorous plant with immense ecological importance, endemic to Meghalaya.

Image of Indian Pitcher plant (Nepenthes khasiana)

Preventive Measures

  1. Awareness– Plant Conservation day is celebrated annually on May 18th to celebrate the researchers and conservationists striving hard to protect the endangered plant species. A well-known environmentalist, Jadav Payeng, proudly called Forest man of India, works on protecting trees. Molai forest, spread across 300 acres, holds plants like Bamboo, Gulmohar (Delonix regia), Arjun (Terminalia arjuna), ejar (Lagerstroemia speciosa) and serve as a home for rhinos, Bengal tigers, monkeys, deers, and rabbits.
  2. Rules and Regulations  Red sanders are an endangered plant species endemic to the Seshachalam hills of Andhra Pradesh. It is notoriously famous for illegal sale and smuggling because a ton of its wood fetches 30-70 lakhs. Stringent rules were laid by the Government where a person caught cutting this wood will be imprisoned for ten years, and he is liable for a cash fine of up to 10 lakhs.
  3. Promotion Forestry units promote the resowing of plants by raising plants in nurseries and distributing them free of cost.

In Lucknow, Kukrail region, plant species of the declining population like Indopiptadenia oudhensis, Genti sps, etc., are raised in nurseries and sown. Careful monitoring by the local forest department to ensure its survival.

Tags: plants

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