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Session8: Restoration methodologies and conservation strategies

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Chairman: Dr. Peeter Noges & Dr. M. A. Khan

Recovery of a Critically Endangered Fresh Water Swamp Tree Species of the Western Ghats

Vasudeva R, Raghu H.B. Suraj P.G., Uma Shaanker R, and Ganeshaiah K.N.


Recovery and restoration of critically endangered plant species entails understanding of autoecology of the species, population genetic structure and creation of new self sustaining populations in the type habitats. Although a large number of plant species of the Western Ghats are critically endangered, little is know about their autoecological details, which severely handicap the conservation efforts. In this paper we report on an effort to initiate recovery of a recently described, critically endangered tree species of freshwater swamps viz., Semecarpus kathalekanensis. We studied the breeding structure of the species; assessed its genetic structure adopting isozyme and RAPD markers and evaluated the survival of two newly created populations.

Several distinct biological features complicate the recovery of S. kathalekanensis. Acquisition of founding propagules to create self-sustaining populations is difficult because of its high habitat specificity, consistently small population sizes, dioecious breeding system, skewed sex ratio and recalcitrant nature of the seeds. Further, random gamete exchange among the breeding individuals may be restricted due to a significant asynchrony in flowering noticed among the male and female trees within a population. Consequently the populations may suffer from huge heterozygote deficiency. Analysis of isozyme and RAPD data supports this view. This genetic bottlenecking may be one of the factors influencing poor recruitment of the species. The human induced habitat destruction has further pushed this species into a stratum below the level of criticality. In order to restore the populations, laboratory-grown seedlings were reintroduced into two type localities and monitored for two years. Fortunately, S. kathalekanensis responds favourably to artificial transplanting in its typical habitat. Species was successfully established in newer localities. We discuss the structure of recovery plans for such critically endangered plant species of the Western Ghats in the light of the present study.

Address: Department of Forest Biology, College of Forestry, Sirsi 581 401. India
Department of Crop Physiology, Department of Plant Breeding and Genetics,
University of Agricultural Sciences,  GKVK, Bangalore 560 065. India
Ashoka Trust for Research on Ecology and Environment,
# 659, 9th main Hebbal, Bangalore 560 065, India
Ph: 0838 428515 Fax: 428486 E-mail: