Found in sacred groves

By Deepa Kozhisseri
Published: Friday 15 August 2008

-- (Credit: AMIT MITRA)Two species of trees, earlier considered extinct, rediscovered

botanists have re-discovered two critically endangered tree species, earlier considered to be extinct. The trees that originated in southern Kerala have been discovered for the first time in some of the relic primeval evergreen forests of Uttara Kannada district in the Western Ghats. Researchers from Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, say the discovery is an indication that the primary forest still thrives there.

The trees, Madhuca bourdillonii and Syzygium travancoricum, were found near the Kan forests (safety forests-cum-sacred groves) in a survey carried out during 2005- 2006. The researchers say the discovery shows the importance of identifying more such relic forests. "Their presence beyond geographical barriers throws up before us fresh questions regarding conventional approach to conservation, which has not given due merit to the ecological history of the region," the authors write in the paper published in The Open Conservation Biology Journal (Vol 2, No 1-8). They suggest conservation strategies should include even fragments of the forests as these harbour important species.

"Presence of relic forests reveal the legacy of erstwhile contiguous forests, which is now fragmented due to land use changes,'' said T V Ramchandra, the lead researcher. The identification and survey of relic evergreen forests are likely to yield rarer endemic species. "We expect many such relic forest patches along the Western Ghats, which survived human onslaughts to some degree. The trees justify our contention that there could be a trail of relic forests with rare elements of flora and fauna endemic to Western Ghats, which, because of our ignorance are yet to be identified,'' said M D Subash Chandran, a co-researcher.

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