TIRUPATI: In an effort to save the rich biodiversity of Seshachalam forests, the forest wing of Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) has identified 49 rare, endangered and threatened (RET) plant species in its forest areas.
The TTD agency is working towards documenting hundreds of species using the geo-tagging technology – first-of-its kind in the region -- to ensure their survival and maintenance.
The newly identified RET plant species include ficus drupacea thunb, shorea talura, schrebera swietenioides, shorea thumbaggia, boswellia ovalifoliolata and cycas beddomei. The cycas beddomei is one of the six critically endangered species in the world. There are eight such endangered species in the Seshachalam forest area that comes under the TTD.
The Seshachalam biosphere is rich in plant diversity, it having thousands of plants. Some of them are recognized and classified as RET plant species depending on their survival threat status. Of the total 82,500 hectares of the region’s forests, TTD controls 3025 hectares in the immediate vicinity of the Tirumala temple.
The TTD is involved in raising plantations in its area to ensure protection of wildlife. However, some of these species that grow and multiply naturally in the forest area are rapidly disappearing, and this is largely outside the radar of public attention.
Against this backdrop, the TTD forest wing has started exploring, identifying and documenting all the species under its forest limits.
“Since plants are a critical part of the ecosystem, we decided to dedicate our efforts to study the species, including the old and rare ones that are heading for extinction. We have formed a five-member team and initiated a project eight months ago to study the rare, endemic and most-threatened species in the TTD forests,” TTD DFO Chandra Sekhar told Deccan Chronicle.
For this study, the TTD DFO who initiated the project has formed a five-member team comprising T. Thulasaiah, B. Chenga Reddy, M. Lokesh, B. Mani and R. Masthan. The team has identified and geo-tagged 994 plant species, of which 49 are RET.
They were explored, identified and documented, as their small population size has become a major concern. The TTD forest wing also initiated a scientific conservation programme for recovering the RET species.
“Urgent measures were needed to restore the endangered species. We initiated a species recovery process through which the decline of a threatened species could be arrested or reversed,” Chandra Sekhar said.
“The process starts with identifying the species, assessing their natural distribution styles and studying their population status. This apart, work on conservation, propagation, plantation, protection, research and awareness would be done. With this, a gradual increase in the population size as also habitat restoration and captive breeding or population stabilisation can be achieved,” he explained.
Meanwhile, the major work done by the TTD forest wing is geo-tagging of all identified plant species. The five-member team with the help of a technical team did a grid methodological survey, inspected each and every species and marked their geographic coordinates. Then their photos were captured and uploaded to the database that has the map of the forest like Google Maps.
“A GIS-based mapping of the forest is under way. The exact locations of the plant species will be mapped and whenever officials click on any species on the map, a dialogue box will open, which would show what the species of the tree is, where it is located and a photograph will appear too. We can see the status of the species right from our office,” the DFO said....