Vanishing species

The Indian subcontinent is set to lose about 1,500 species of precious plants

Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015

more than 1,500 species of plants found in the Indian subcontinent are on the verge of extinction. Most of these are endemic species -- represented by one or few individuals or populations. This was revealed by the members of the Indian Subcontinent Plant Specialist Group ( ispsg ) of the Species Survival Commission ( ssc ) and the International Union for Conservation for Nature ( iucn ). The information is based on the field surveys and extensive assessments made by the member of the specialist group.

Dedicated to the cause of conserving species and biological diversity, the ssc members voluntarily work for the cause of the plants found in the Indian subcontinent. "If plants are not protected, particularly medicinal plants, we will loose them forever," warns C R Babu, chairperson, ispsg.

Plants like Yarsa Gombu (Cordyceps sinesis) -- also known as half plant and animal -- is of high medicinal potential, and fetch reportedly as much as us $5000 for one kilogram in international market. Ferula tingitana -- which was highly valued in medicine in historical times has already become extinct due to over-exploitation. Himalayan plants like Aconitum bisma , Alstonia nerifolia , Swertia chirayita , Dioscorea deltoidea and Arnebia benthaniim are feared to have become scarce. In the Western Ghats, out of 300 fern plants, 40 are endangered.

Experts feel that the endangered species of orchids, ferns, ceropegias and other economically important ones including over-exploited medicinal plants need to be saved as there are very few surviving populations. The Specialist group has said that there is a possibility of developing new drugs from several other species, some of which may not even be known to science as yet.

Expressing the concern M Ahmedullah, Vice-Chairperson, ispsg, said that many species are being exploited, collected indiscriminately and unscientifically, reducing their numbers in nature to levels that push them to the verge of extinction. "Since the legal options for plants are almost negligible, the specialist group decided to impress upon the government the need to broaden the scope of the Wildlife Protection Act to include plant species that are under threat," says Ahmedullah.

Subscribe to Weekly Newsletter :

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.