Chapter 1
Introduction


 Plants, by virtue of their photosynthetic pigments, are the

primary producers in the food chain of the global ecosystem. We
human beings are steps in this food chain and depend not only on
plants but also on other organisms that derive their nutrition
directly or indirectly from plants. The plants on which we rely
more are cared by us and are assigned the category of cultivated
plants. The wild relatives of cultivated plants (WRCPs) also find
a lot of uses well known to plant breeders. WRCPs are very
important component of the plant genetic resources. Therefore,
there is a relationship between biodiversity and the genetic
resources. We keep finding various uses of new organisms and hence
these organisms and their relatives keep becoming genetic resources
for us. There are many reasons advocated for the conservation of
biodiversity - the diversity of life forms. These reasons could be
put broadly into two groups: 1. ethical, and 2. rational or
utilitarian. Ethical reasons say that every organism has right to
live; so it has existence value. However, according to an FAO
report (FAO 1993) "as human populations continue to increase the
opportunity cost of setting aside large areas purely to conserve
biological diversity for ethical reasons and often unspecified
"future needs" become increasingly difficult to defend." However,
rational or utilitarian reasons seem to be more justifiable,
defendable and logical for conservation of biodiversity (WWF 1993).
Mainly due to population growth, man had to learn
domesticating plants and animals, and controlling environment
around him for his benefit. Agriculture originated because of this
need (Cohen 1977) and a lot of changes have taken place in some
cultivated plants during the process of domestication. Today there
are such characters in plants that are being maintained in
domesticated plants but would not survive in the wild, e.g., male
sterile lines maintained for hybrid seed production. In this
process of modifying organisms and the environment around us, we
passed through a stage when diversity in cultivated plants
increased considerably because we had to try different crops in
different environments as we had to migrate to colonize newer and
newer environments because of population growth. In this process,
a lot of exchanges of economic plants took place among various
human groups resulting in an increase in diversity in cultivated
plants. Now, the diversity is dissipating at a very fast rate not
only in cultivated plant species but also in their wild relatives
and other plants and animals that are still not studied for their
uses. The rate of extinction of species is also high (WCMC 1992).
Simultaneously, there is an explosion of concern about managing and
sustainably using the biodiversity (FAO 1993; Lele 1993). The
present study is also an effort in this regard to work out
strategies for in situ conservation of wild relatives of cultivated
plants (WRCPs).
The natural plant communities, their various degradation
stages and the so-called wastelands support most of WRCPs. However,
to increase crop production, more natural plant communities and
so-called wastelands are being brought under cultivation. They are
also being put to other land uses for various development works to
meet the human aspirations of high levels of resource consumption,
increasing standard of living and often to support deleterious and
unsustainable lifestyles. Because of this, the loss of the habitat
is the most important factor responsible for loss of genetic
diversity in wild relatives of cultivated plants. With this
background in mind the question is how to conserve a greater amount
of diversity in WRCPs? Whether setting aside some areas in the name
of biosphere reserves, national parks and gene sanctuaries etc.
will do the job? Whether the present status of effort is enough or
not? Some of these questions and related issues are the topics
around which the present thesis would revolve. A few definitions
and clarifications of terms used in this field and related topics
are given here for clear understanding.


1.1 What are Wild Relatives of Cultivated Plants (WRCPs)?


WRCPs are plant taxa close to cultivated plant species in
their genetic makeup and evolutionary relationship. Taxonomic
relationship is a good indicator of the closeness in the genetic
makeup and evolutionary relationship of organisms. Organisms are
also, as usual, classified based on their similarities and
differences among one another. Since it is not so easy to study the
genetic makeup of a large number of organisms whom one wants to
classify, the morphological characters come more handy in such
studies. However, there is no need to restrict oneself to
morphological characters only if one can do more.
WRCPs are a component of plant genetic resources (PGRs).
Recently these are being viewed as the storehouses of desirable
genetic variations for potential use in plant breeding. In this
respect their importance is bound to increase as our population
grows. This is because we are bound to take to high yielding
varieties and hybrid varieties of crops. Consequently, traditional
varieties & landraces are being replaced at a very fast rate. To
some extent it seems to be an unavoidable process. We cannot do
both - have and eat the cake. Selection feeds on variation in the
sense (it is stated) that selection of parents reduces the
variance. A group of selected parents represents one tail of the
phenotypic distribution, and in consequence their phenotypic
variance must be less than that of the whole population from which
they are selected. According to Falconer (1989) if Vp is the
phenotypic variance before selection and k the factor by which it
is reduced, then the phenotypic variance, V*p, in the selected
parents is V*p = (1-k)Vp. The factor k depends on the intensity of
selection. When selection is by truncation of a normal
distribution, then k = i(i-x) where i is the intensity of selection
and x is the corresponding deviation of the point of truncation
from the population mean. In nutshell, the directional and
stabilizing selections reduce the genetic variance whereas
disruptive selection increases the genetic variance. WRCPs are also
losing their ground because of loss of their habitats. Efforts are
being made to conserve maximum possible diversity in PGRs. For
different components of PGRs different conservation measures are
relevant. These measures have their own advantages and
disadvantages (FAO 1975, 1984a, 1989, 1990; Holden and Williams
1984; Keiding 1991; Palmberg 1987). In situ conservation is highly
relevant to conservation of WRCPs. With depletion of variation in
cultivars due to success of a few high yielding varieties, plant
breeders are looking more towards WRCPs for desirable genes for
further improvement of the cultivars. This trend is likely to
continue as the art and science of plant breeding, biotechnology
and other technological advances give differential ownership rights
on high value finished products of bio-resources.


1.2 Significance or Uses of WRCPs


The details of uses of WRCPs could be seen in books related
with plant breeding under the headings like distant hybridization,
distant crosses, wide crosses, interspecific and intergeneric
crosses. While emphasizing the importance of WRCPs, Ingram (1990)
noted that "as more and more genes are synthesized in laboratories,
the importance of populations of related species in wild and weedy
conditions will increase, and not decrease. Wild populations are
what we will increasingly return to in search of key adaptations
and adaptive complexes of genes." Ingram has also listed the
following five ways in which wild species have been used: 1.
increasing yield vigour and rates of growth (Myres 1983), 2.
increasing disease resistance (Watson 1970; Dinoor 1975), 3.
improvement of product quality such as fruit with higher
nutritional composition or wood that is more useful in
construction, 4. greater adaptability to environmental conditions
such as drought tolerance, and 5. compatibility with systems of
production including establishment, treatment, pest management and
harvesting. He also categorized these uses into two general
patterns of use depending on whether single alleles or entire
combinations of genes - the co-adapted gene complexes are used.
Singh (1983) has listed the major objectives and applications
of distant hybridization in crop improvement, e.g., 1. Creation of
new crop species. 2. Alien-addition lines, alien-addition
monosomes. 3. Alien-substitution lines, alien-substitution
monosomes. 4. Transfer of small chromosome segments. 5. Transfer of
cytoplasm, and 6. Utilization as new varieties etc. Some of these
applications such as alien-addition lines may be of little
agricultural importance but some others are certainly useful. He
has also mentioned, with examples, that genes affecting a variety
of characters have been transferred from wild relatives, e.g.,
disease resistance, wider adaptation, quality, mode of
reproduction, yield and other characters.
Usually in crop improvement programmes, WRCPs are the last
options to be looked for desirable characters. Therefore, one finds
more uses of WRCPs in those crops in which much breeding work has
already been done and as a result of it, much variation has been
depleted. Apart from use in breeding, WRCPs find their uses in
other forms also. They are used as root-stocks to exploit the
useful stock-scion relationships, e.g., in Citrus, Ziziphus species
etc. With the advancement in in vitro techniques and gene transfer
techniques, the traditional barriers of gene transfer from wild
relatives of crops to their cultivated counterparts are vanishing
and molecular plants breeding is gaining more attention of plant
breeders and biotechnologists. Therefore, use of desirable genes
from WRCPs in creating transgenic crops is of high potential
application in agriculture and biotechnology industry. Moreover,
quite often we become curious about the progenitors of our crops as
well as the relationships among crops and their wild relatives.
Comparative studies of WRCPs and their cultivated counterparts give
much insight to satisfy our curiosity.


Conservation


The actions and policies that assure the continued
availability and existence of a resource (FAO 1989).


In situ conservation


In situ or on site conservation is the maintenance of
concerned organisms in their natural habitats where they form a
part of the ecosystem and are evolving naturally. Thus, in situ
conservation has the advantage of maintaining the plant populations
in their evolutionary state in relation to other components of the
ecosystem. There are other advantages of in situ conservation (FAO
1989).


Ex situ conservation


Ex situ or off-site conservation is the maintenance of
organisms away from their natural habitats. These may include field
gene-banks, low temperature seed storage, tissue culture
repositories etc.


1.3 Relevance of in situ conservation


The choice of conservation measures or a judicious mix thereof
depends on the nature of the organism(s) under consideration,
objective and the priorities. In situ and ex situ conservation
measures are complementary to each other and a judicious mix of the
two types of conservation measures is recommended strongly. A
number of institutions and persons engaged in conservation of PGRs
have realized that in situ conservation is highly relevant to
conservation of WRCPs (Vaughan and Chang 1992; Palmberg 1992).


1.4 Genetic erosion


Following are a few definitions and descriptions of genetic
erosion:
1. (From Encyclopedia of Environmental Biology, Academic Press,
California. Vol. 2, F-N. Ed. by William A. Nirenberg.)
"A technological fact of improved varieties is that they have
a tendency to eliminate the resource that they are based on and
from which they have been derived by breeding. Current elite
varieties yield better than the varieties they replace, and once a
displaced variety is no longer planted, its genes are lost to
future generations unless it is conserved. The gene rich ancestral
forms are also lost because of bad land use plannning,
environmental degradation, and urbanization. The key point is that
when a unique variety is no longer planted, it is a silent loss.
Like soil erosion, it is gone with no drama of disappearing; what
remains is diminished genetic diversity.
... Genetic erosion is a slow, gradual process based on
independent individual decisions of farmers. ....."
2. (From Stephen B. Brush 1989. Rethinking Crop Genetic Resource
Conservation. Conservation Biology Vol. 3, No. 1, pp. 23.)
"Genetic erosion may be defined as the loss of germplasm from
a population."
3. "As agriculture began to develop again after the Second World
War, breeders began to introduce new varieties, and farmers were
encouraged by extension workers to grow these and to discard their
highly diverse land races. Thus genetic diversity began to
diminish, slowly at first, but soon gathering an overwhelming
momentum. This is a process which still continues, and which we now
call genetic erosion."
(J.G. Hawkes, 1990)


1.5 Genetic resource depletion


Reduction in the area of cultivation and eventually going out
of cultivation of a cultivar. This leads to reduction in the
options available to farmers in choosing the crop variety.
Similarly, shrinkage in the geographical range, habitat and the
populations of WRCPs and their eventual extinction is genetic
resource depletion.
The above few definitions and descriptions of the concept of
genetic erosion and genetic resource depletion give some idea about
the concept. However, the concept needs to be explained properly.
The undesirable consequences of crop improvement are leading to
narrowing down of genetic base of cultivars. Improvement in crop
yields by improved varieties often is accompanied with a reduction
in variability in cultivars of that species because of two basic
reasons: 1. The replacement of a large number of more heterogeneous
local and traditional cultivars by a few more homogeneous improved
cultivars in large tracts. 2. Use of derived/similar or related
cultivars of improved/high yielding varieties as parents in further
breeding/improvement works. But reduction in variability among
WRCPs is mainly because of loss of their populations. This is due
to loss of their habitats which are being encroached and converted
into crop fields for growing their own congeneric cultivated
counterparts. It may also happen that the WRCPs may provide
suitable genes to improved cultivars for further expansion of
ecological amplitude of cultivation of those crops in marginal and
submarginal lands where the WRCPs would have thrived and continued
to exist. Of late, not only plant breeders but also governments,
NGOs, and other institutions have become aware of genetic resource
depletion and narrowing down of genetic base of crop plants. The
genetic resource depletion limits the prospects of further
improvement works in those crops and often the loss of PGRs might
lead to loss of available options of breeding methods. For example,
with loss of wild relatives and sexual reproduction in certain
crops like Amorphophallus campanulatus, Dioscorea, Zingiber and
Curcuma etc, there will be loss of choice of breeding methods. That
is why often there are calls from plant breeders of root crops for
reviving the sexual reproduction in those crops (Nair et. al.
1980).
In Uttara Kannada the specific relationship between habitat
loss and genetic erosion, and the planting of new varieties of
crops and genetic erosion in the local populations of WRCPs could
be illustrated with the help of following examples: Earlier a wild
relative of rice (Porteresia coarctata -earlier known as Oryza
coarctata) was abundant in the estuaries and the tidal wetlands
(Blatter and McCann 1935). Then these tidal wetlands were reclaimed
for cultivation of traditional brackish water paddy varieties. Then
improved brackish water paddy varieties like Kagga (Kari Kagga,
Bili Kagga) came and replaced the traditional brackish water paddy
varieties (Kamath 1985). Slowly traditional prawn culture replaced
Kagga and then commercial scientific aquaculture replaced the
traditional prawn culture. Now there is a ban on commercial prawn
culture. In this whole chain of events there is overlap of
activities but the net result is almost wipe-out or drastic
reduction of Porteresia coarctata, shrinkage/reduction in the area
of cultivation of brackish water paddy varieties (both traditional
and the improved ones). Mangrove vegetation has also suffered
heavily. Similar is the story of Myristica swamp vegetation which
harbours a number of WRCPs.
New varieties & genetic erosion: Near Kumta there was a low lying
field owned by Devu Mukri. It was remaining uncultivated in 1992
and Oryza nivara had colonized the field very well. Following year
he transplanted some lowland paddy variety and hence only a few
clumps/hills of Oryza nivara were left along bunds. My observations
on this aspect in Uttara Kannada are limited but more extensive
from my own village where I have seen and recorded the replacement
of traditional rice varieties. The most important among them is the
Sathi variety which is no more cultivated but still survives only
in a song of marriage ritual. Sathi is still under cultivation in
drier regions elsewhere. Cultivars have a faster death/extinction
rate than culture (rituals/songs).


1.6 Historic concern about genetic resource depletion


The concern about need for a broad genetic base for crop
improvement could be traced as far back as up to Vavilov (1926)
when he and his colleagues collected cultivated plants and their
wild relatives from various parts of the world. However, if we use
the words of J.G. Hawkes (1981) then "by the 1950s, concern
developed that the natural reservoirs of germplasm resources were
rapidly being destroyed, or to use a simile from soil science,
genetic erosion was taking place." However, the term genetic
erosion seems to be a misnomer as it does not convey the proper
meaning of the phenomenon it tries to indicate. The simile from
soil science would mean the displacement of genetic resources from
one place to another. But that is not the case here. Actually
genetic resource depletion or genetic extinction would have been a
better term for the phenomenon to which the term genetic erosion
tries to indicate. Anyway, the concern of J.G. Hawkes (1981)
expressed about genetic erosion forced us to think for the
conservation of PGRs in general and the in situ conservation of
WRCPs in particular. H.V. Harlan was also one of the first persons
to express concern about the danger of losing genetic diversity
(Harlan and Martini 1936; Harlan 1957). A series of papers by J.G.
Hawkes and G.B. Ingram, among many others, provided some momentum
for research on in situ conservation aspects. Later-on crop
specific wild relatives were studied (Noy-Meir et al. 1989),
collected and are being maintained ex situ. There are
species-specific suggestions and further actions on certain WRCPs
(Vaughan & Chang 1992).


1.7 Previous efforts of in situ conservation


The Man and Biosphere programme of the UNESCO launched in
early 1970s (UNESCO 1981; Bawa and Hadley 1990) generated much
awareness about environmental issues. As a result of it, a number
of protected area systems, biosphere reserves were established. In
situ conservation of biodiversity was one of the objectives of
these protected area systems. A number of crop-specific gene
sanctuaries/protected area systems were established. Notable among
these are: 1. Citrus gene sanctuary in Meghalaya state, India; 2.
Manatlan reserve in western Mexico where a rare maize relative Zea
diploperennis is conserved; 3. Wild wheat and wild barley
conservation areas in Israel. As the concern for in situ
conservation of PGRs increased with further studies, better and
better suggestions were proposed.
Hawkes (1981) suggested seven groups of activities for the
conservation and utilization of genetic resources: 1. exploration,
2. conservation, 3. evaluation, 4. data storage and retrieval, 5.
utilization, 6. training, and 7. global coordination, and discussed
in detail about these points. A somewhat similar view was expressed
by Singh (1989) while discussing about plant genetic resources.
Similar to Hawkes, Singh (1989) also discussed on following points:
1. exploration and collection, 2. conservation, 3.
characterization, 4. documentation, and 5. utilization under the
heading "genetic resource activities" in detail.
FAO (1984), based on the work of Ingram, has given a
scientific and technical base for in situ conservation of genetic
resources of plants. In this document, apart from other details,
the best part is the "component operations of in situ conservation"
namely 1. exploration and initial field research, 2. formulation of
research objectives, 3. site assessment, 4. design and acquisition,
and 5. management. Some of the points like "site selection" etc.
raised here will be discussed in the present thesis at appropriate
places.
FAO (1993), based on the work of Kemp, has given principles
and concepts for conservation of genetic resources in tropical
forest management along with three case studies from three tropical
countries. This document also makes a good reading for
understanding about in situ conservation of plant genetic
resources.
For conserving wild relatives of cultivated plants, Gadgil et
al. (1996) argue for an ecologically wise management of the entire
landscape; going beyond the traditional approach of conservation of
a few pockets of natural habitats through a system of protected
areas. Their argument is based on the fact that WRCPs are not
confined to protected areas only. WRCPs range over an entire
spectrum of ecological habitats, natural, semi-natural, as well as
highly human-impacted. To take care of intraspecific variation
within particular WRCP, they argue for conserving multiple
populations of the species. The idea is to take either a species
centred or a region centred approach. A region centred approach
calls for establishment of conservation priorities at the habitat
level. For any region, these may be arrived at through a series of
steps: (i) Inventory of WRCPs as congenerics of cultivated plant
species on the basis of published literature, herbarium
collections, and field work. (ii) Mapping the distribution of
habitat types in the region as types of landscape elements (LSEs)
with the help of satellite imagery along with field surveys. (iii)
Association of groups of WRCPs with different types of LSEs on the
basis of field surveys. (iv) Assessment of rates of transformations
of LSE types with the help of satellite imagery of earlier years,
official records and oral histories. Satellite imageries are
efficient tool for classifying the habitats/LSEs and assessing the
areas under different LSE types/habitat types of a landscape. Now
satellite imageries are available (to our centre - Centre for
Ecological Sciences) not only for Uttara Kannada but also for the
whole Western Ghats. Once the habitats/LSEs of a landscape are
classified and marked, it would help in making land use capability
classification when supplemented with slope, altitude, soil
conditions and such other information. This ultimately would aid in
land use decision making. For example, in ghat section, because of
steep slope, it would always be desirable to set it aside for
conservation purposes. (v) Assessment of threats to different WRCPs
as a result of ongoing landscape changes, and other causes such as
unsustainable harvests. (vi) Assignment of conservation priorities
to WRCPs on the basis of likely threats to their populations,
rarity, endemicity, economic use, and taxonomic distinctiveness.
(vii) Assignment of conservation priorities to different types of
habitats or landscape elements on the basis of richness and
conservation significance of the WRCP species they harbour. It is
also argued that (a) the protected area systems of the region
should then be assessed in terms of their coverage of habitats
significant for conservation of WRCPs, and appropriately
strengthened. (b) it is equally important to wisely manage habitats
valuable from the perspective of WRCP conservation outside the
protected areas systems by providing appropriate inputs to the
process of development planning. (c) the conservation effort should
include a continual monitoring of ongoing ecological changes and
appropriate adjustment of the regime of management of habitats of
WRCPs both within and outside the protected areas system. (d) it is
essential to create institutions and systems of positive incentives
to involve local communities as active partners in the efforts to
conserve WRCPs both within and outside the protected areas.
Despite above efforts, in situ conservation activities have
not gained much ground compared to ex situ conservation activities.
In situ conservation has remained a much talked but less acted upon
issue. Actually it is action and field-oriented work involving
nature loving, outgoing people. Let us see if there is something in
the present study of in situ conservation.


1.8 India's Heritage of WRCPs


India is endowed with a rich botanical wealth of about 15000
species of flowering plants (Paroda & Arora 1991; WCMC 1992). India
is one of the 'megadiversity coutries' and two of its region viz.
the Eastern Himalayas and the Western Ghats are the 'hot spots'
(Myres 1990). India is also one of the twelve regions of diversity
of crop plants in the world (Zeven & deWet 1982). Arora and Nayar
(1984) have synthesized the available information on the
distribution, habitat preference, ecology, utility, diversity and
other details about the wild relatives and related taxa of crop
plants of the Indian region. Their initial list of plants of
agrihorticultural importance comprised over 1200 species out of
which about 300-320 more important ones were discussed in detail.
They have discussed crop-category-wise areas of concentration in
seven phytogeographic zones. India's notable contribution to the
world's crop and their wild relatives include species from the
following genera: Oryza, Vigna, Artocarpus, Mangifera, Abelmoschus,
Amaranthus, Dioscorea, Trichosanthes, Brassica, Carthamus, Sesamum,
Corchorus, Crotalaria, Allium, Amomum, Cinnamomum, Curcuma, Piper,
Myristica, Zingiber and Saccharum.


1.9 Distribution of WRCPs in India


Arora and Nayar (1984) have given details of distribution and
habitat preference of wild relatives of crops in India. Besides
textual information, this also includes marking of areas of
concentration on maps in seven phytogeographic zones viz. 1.
Western Himalaya, 2. Eastern Himalaya, 3. North-Eastern region, 4.
Gangetic Plains, 5. Indus Plains, 6. Eastern Peninsular region, and
7. Western Peninsular region/Malabar. The total number of WRCPs in
these zones, according to Arora and Nayar (1984), is as follows:
Phytogeographic zone No. of Wild relatives

Western Himalaya 125
Eastern Himalaya 82
North-Eastern region 132
Gangetic Plains 66
Indus Plains 45
Malabar/Western Peninsular region 145
Deccan/Eastern Peninsular region 91


1.10 Importance of the Western Ghats/Malabar


As stated earlier, the Western Ghats region is one of the 18
'hot spots' of the world. According to Arora and Nayar (1984), this
region has the maximum number of WRCPs. The important genera of the
western peninsular tract may be listed as follows: Oryza, Atylosia,
Dolichos, Mucuna, Vigna, Artocarpus, Garcinia, Diospyros,
Mangifera, Musa, Mimusops, Abelmoschus, Amorphophallus, Momordica,
Luffa, Solanum, Trichosanthes, Sesamum, Corchorus, Cinnamomum,
Curcuma, Myristica, Piper, Zingiber and Narenga.
1.11 Significance of Uttara Kannada for conservation of
WRCPs
UK lies in the middle portion of the Western Ghats. Therefore,
it provides some sort of intermediate levels of climatic conditions
of extreme ends of the Western Ghats. Therefore, it is a transition
zone between northern and southern zones of Sahyadris. A few WRCPs
like Myristica fatua, Pinanga dicksonii and Gymnacranthera canarica
have their northern range in UK. A number of WRCPs of important
crops are present in UK. These include species of Oryza, Piper,
Zingiber, Curcuma, Amomum, Garcinia, Myristica, Musa, Abelmoschus,
Sesamum, Murraya, Dioscorea etc.


1.12 Ongoing changes in the landscape of UK


One can peep into the history of land-use and ongoing changes
in the landscape of the UK through the accounts of Buchanan (1870),
Campbell (1883), Davidson (1898), and Kamath (1985). A more recent
synthesis of the forest history of UK is given by Gadgil & Chandran
(1988). Chandran (1993) has given a full account of vegetational
changes in the evergreen forest belt of UK. During Campbell's
time, the area under cultivation in UK was about 12% and more than
80% of the land was under the forest cover. There were rice fields
and coconut plantations in the coastal areas (Buchanan 1870;
Campbell 1883). There were spice gardens in the well-watered
valleys. According to Kamath (1985) "out of 10,291 sq. km (1981) of
the total geographical area, about 8,292.65 sq. km are occupied by
forests forming about 80.57 per cent of the geographical area."
Some forest areas have been put to other land uses like settlement
of refugees, regularisation of encroached lands, electricity and
communication lines, irrigation and hydel projects, mining and
other development works. Daniels (1989) has tried to look at the
landscape of UK from the eyes of birds of this area and according
to him the landscape transformation has resulted in a reduction in
the total forest cover from over 8000 km2 to about 7000 km2 over the
last century. Suitable valleys in the hilly areas have been
occupied for betelnut orchard at an increasing rate because of
control of malaria, infrastructure development and economic
reasons. Setting up of the first major saw mill at Dandeli in 1917
and a plywood factory in 1944, a paper mill in 1955 have changed
the forests of the UK qualitatively in their resource catchment
areas by selective extraction of the raw materials. Iron and
Mangnese ore mining have direct effect of reducing forest cover by
forest clearing and dumping from open cast mines. Even if there is
some revegetation and natural succession on mined areas and mine
dumps, these landscape and vegetation changes are quite drastic.
Hydel project on the Kali river also has reduced some forest cover
and added a new landscape element to the landscape of northern UK.
Fast growing Acacia auriculiformis and Eucalyptus have been tried
on large patches of different degradation stages of forests as well
as in the good forests after clear-felling. Irrigation tanks in the
district have their individual tank histories and their fate
depends on the local conditions, externalities, and development
style. Some of these tanks and ponds are supporting highly valuable
wild relatives of paddy (Oryza sativa) like O. rufipogon and O.
nivara. In the present study, I have noticed some of these changes
taking place at a faster rate like vanishing of the sand-dunes in
coastal area, vanishing of Myristica swamps in the hilly areas,
conversion of less economical land-uses to more economical
land-uses like tidal wetland paddy cultivation to prawn culture,
paddy to betelnut cultivation etc. Because of these
transformations, what remains today is a mosaic of landscape
elements which are being continuously changed/moulded by the market
forces and other externalities. There is a continuous shift in the
vegetation of more disturbed habitats because of these forces.


1.13 Need to assess how to conserve the stock of WRCPs?


The proverbial statement "change is the law of nature" sums up
the story of change in the landscape of UK also. However, human
nature is such that we are changing the natural ecosystems at an
alarming rate and our lifestyles are being questioned about
sustainability. Uttara Kannada's natural, semi-natural and manmade
ecosystems are supporting a number of WRCPs which are seen as
storehouse of desirable genes for sustaining the pace of
agriculture to meet the future needs. However, some of the
development activities and transformations are impinging on the
populations of WRCPs. Therefore, there is a need to investigate
these opposing forces at work and think whether our development
activities could be given proper input so as to pursue development
without losing WRCPs. The present thesis is a step in this
direction.


1.14 Motivation for the present study


Coming from a farmer's family and with the educational
background of botany, agriculture, genetics & plant breeding and a
little knowledge of in vitro techniques, I was thinking to do
something with plants for the betterment of society when I was
facing the question of selecting a research topic. Accidentally, I
saw some populations of wild Solanum and Atylosia species in the
Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, while censussing elephants as a course
curriculum. I remembered of intergeneric crosses, between Cajanus
cajan and Atylosia species, which I had made during my
post-graduation, and hence thought that why not should I work for
these plants? I started working also but in the mean time, another
idea of working on resource allocation in Solanum species came and
after some initial preparation that idea also had to be abandoned.
I had to look for another study area (Uttara Kannada) where I could
work on the first idea of in situ conservation of wild relatives of
cultivated plants. Here my dear 'teachers' for the plants of Uttara
Kannada (Mr. M.B. Naik and Dr. M.D.S. Chandran) and a number of
friendly people made it possible to do 'something' for the
conservation of WRCPs. Let us see whether our effort succeeds in
saving Myristica fatua in its natural habitat.