Context: In its new publication ‘Plant Discoveries 2020’, Botanical Survey of India has added 267 new taxa/ species to the country’s flora.

Key Highlights

  • The 267 new discoveries include 119 angiosperms; 3 pteridophytes; 5 bryophytes, 44 lichens; 57 fungi, 21 algae and 18 microbes.
  • In 2020, 202 new plant species were discovered across the country and 65 new records were added.
  • With these new discoveries the latest estimate of plant diversity in India stands at 54,733 taxa including 
    • 21,849 angiosperms, 
    • 82 gymnosperms, 
    • 1,310 pteridophytes, 
    • 2,791 bryophytes, 
    • 2,961 lichens, 
    • 15,504 fungi,
    • 8,979 algae and 
    • 1,257 microbes.

Balsam blossoms

  • Among the new discoveries, nine new species of balsam (Impatiens) and one species of wild banana (Musa pradhanii) were discovered from Darjeeling and one species each of wild jamun (Syzygium anamalaianum) from Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu and fern (Selaginella odishana) were recorded from Kandhamal in Odisha.
  • There are 14 new macro and 31 new micro fungi species recorded from various parts of India.

Western Ghat Major Contributor

  • 22% of the discoveries were made from the Western Ghats followed by the Western Himalayas (15%), the Eastern Himalayas (14%) and the Northeast ranges (12%).
  • Breakdown of latest contributio
    • The west coast- 10%
    • East coast- 9%
    •  Eastern Ghats- 4 %
    • South Deccan- 4%
    • Central highland- 3%
    • North Deccan- 3%

Significance of Western Ghats

  • The Western Ghats are extremely important from several points of view. 
  • One is its geomorphic importance. 
    • It is older than the Himalayas and is considered an ‘evolutionary ecotone’ illustrating the “Out of Africa” and the “Out of India” hypotheses. 
    • The Ghats also have a major influence on the ecological and biophysical processes on the entire peninsula of India. 
    • They also influence the monsoon weather patterns across the country. 
    • They present a classic example of the tropical monsoon system.
    • The mountains act as a barrier to the rain-laden southwest monsoon winds in late summer in India.
  • Another reason for the Ghats’ significance is the enormous diversity and abundance of species of flora and fauna in this region. 
    • Many of these species are also endemic to the region. 
    • There are 4 – 5 thousand plant species here out of which 650 tree species are found. And, out of the 650 tree species, 352 are endemic. 
    • There are also 179 amphibian species, 65% of which are endemic; 157 reptile species, 62% of which are endemic; and 219 fish species, 53% of which are endemic. 
    • There are many flagship mammal species also here. 
    • Some of the endangered species found here are Nilgiri Tahr, Lion-tailed Macaque and Nilgiri Langur.

Related Facts

Botanical Survey of India

  • Botanical Survey of India (BSI), the apex taxonomic research organization of the country which is under the Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change, Government of India was established on 13th February 1890 under the direction of Sir George King. 
  • The organization’s mandate was to explore, collect, identify and document the rich plant resources of erstwhile British India.
  • During the colonial period, all the botanical research, collection and experimentation of the Botanical Survey of India was concentrated in the Indian Botanical Garden erstwhile known as Royal Botanical Garden, Sibpur, Howrah.
  • However, after Independence, the Botanical Survey of India was reorganized in 1954.
  • Over the years, the mandate of the organization has been broadened to the following:
    • Biosystematics research, 
    • Floristic studies, 
    • Documentation, 
    • Databasing of National Botanical collection, 
    • Digitization of herbarium specimens, 
    • Development of molecular taxonomy laboratory, 
    • Advisory services and capacity building training programmes etc.

About Western Ghats

  • The Western Ghats, also known as ‘Sahyadri’, constitute a 1600 km long mountain chain along the west coast of India
  • It runs parallel to the West coast of India from the river Tapi in the north to Kanyakumari in the south.
  • It covers a total area of 160,000 square kms and traverses through six States viz. Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
  • It experiences a tropical humid climate in lower reaches, and climate is cooler in the upper reaches. The western side of the Ghat receives more rainfall than the eastern side
  • There are four major forest types in the Western Ghats: evergreen, semi-evergreen, moist deciduous, and dry deciduous
  • Western Ghats was declared as a world heritage site in 2012 by the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

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