Concern about the decline of wild salmon has attracted the attention of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The IUCN applies quantitative criteria to assess risk of extinction and publishes its results on the Red List of Threatened Species. However, the focus is on the species level and thus may fail to show the risk to populations. The IUCN has adapted their criteria to apply to populations but there exist few examples of this type of assessment. We assessed the status of sockeye salmon Oncorhynchus nerka as a model for application of the IUCN population-level assessments and to provide the first global assessment of the status of an anadromous Pacific salmon.
We found from demographic data that the sockeye salmon species is not presently at risk of extinction. We identified 98 independent populations with varying levels of risk within the species' range. Of these, 5 (5%) are already extinct. We analyzed the risk for 62 out of 93 extant populations (67%) and found that 17 of these (27%) are at risk of extinction. The greatest number and concentration of extinct and threatened populations is in the southern part of the North American range, primarily due to overfishing, freshwater habitat loss, dams, hatcheries, and changing ocean conditions.
Although sockeye salmon are not at risk at the species-level, about one-third of the populations that we analyzed are at risk or already extinct. Without an understanding of risk to biodiversity at the level of populations, the biodiversity loss in salmon would be greatly underrepresented on the Red List. We urge government, conservation organizations, scientists and the public to recognize this limitation of the Red List. We also urge recognition that about one-third of sockeye salmon global population diversity is at risk of extinction or already extinct.
Understanding how animal populations have evolved in response to palaeoenvironmental conditions is essential for predicting the impact of future environmental change on current biodiversity. Analyses of ancient DNA provide a unique opportunity to track population responses to prehistoric environments. We explored the effects of palaeoenvironmental change on the colonial tuco-tuco (Ctenomys sociabilis), a highly endemic species of Patagonian rodent that is currently listed as threatened by the IUCN. By combining surveys of modern genetic variation from throughout this species' current geographic range with analyses of DNA samples from fossil material dating back to 10 000 ybp, we demonstrate a striking decline in genetic diversity that is concordant with environmental events in the study region. Our results highlight the importance of non-anthropogenic factors in loss of diversity, including reductions in smaller mammals such as rodents.
Ctenomys sociabilis; ancient DNA; phylochronology; climatic change; genetic variability; volcanism
The recent industrial boom along the Australian coastline has increased concerns about the long term conservation of snubfin dolphins along the Queensland coast. National assessment of the conservation status and management of the Australian snubfin dolphin is currently hindered by the lack of adequate biological and ecological information throughout most of its range. In response to the issue of determining the conservation status of species with broad ranges, the IUCN has provided a framework for assessing the threatened status of regional populations. In this study we assessed the conservation status of a small geographically isolated population of snubfin dolphins living in the Fitzroy River region, Queensland, Australia, against the IUCN criteria for regional populations. A review of all available sightings data and stranding information indicates that this is the southernmost resident population of snubfin dolphins in Australian waters. The Fitzroy River snubfin dolphin population is composed of less than 100 individuals, with a representative range and core area of less than 400 and 300 km2 respectively. The area most often used by snubfin dolphins within the representative range and core area was estimated to be about 292 and 191 km2, respectively. A decrease in representative range, core area and preferred habitat between 14 and 25% is projected to occur if a planned industrial port development were to occur. These results are robust to uncertainty and considering the low level of formal protection and future threats, a classification of this subpopulation under the IUCN Red List as “Endangered” is appropriate.
Morus boninensis, is an endemic plant of the Bonin (Ogasawara) Islands of Japan and is categorized as "critically endangered" in the Japanese red data book. However, little information is available about its ecological, evolutionary and genetic status, despite the urgent need for guidelines for the conservation of the species. Therefore, we adopted Moritz's MU concept, based on the species' current genetic structure, to define management units and to select mother tree candidates for seed orchards.
Nearly all individuals of the species were genotyped on the basis of seven microsatellite markers. Genetic diversity levels in putative natural populations were higher than in putative man-made populations with the exception of those on Otouto-jima Island. This is because a limited number of maternal trees are likely to have been used for seed collection to establish the man-made populations. A model-based clustering analysis clearly distinguished individuals into nine clusters, with a large difference in genetic composition between the population on Otouto-jima Island, the putative natural populations and the putative man-made populations. The Otouto-jima population appeared to be genetically differentiated from the others; a finding that was also supported by pairwise FST and RST analysis. Although multiple clusters were detected in the putative man-made populations, the pattern of genetic diversity was monotonous in comparison to the natural populations.
The genotyping by microsatellite markers revealed strong genetic structures. Typically, artificial propagation of this species has ignored the genetic structure, relying only on seeds from Otouto-jima for replanting on other islands, because of a problem with inter-specific hybridization on Chichi-jima and Haha-jima Islands. However, this study demonstrates that we should be taking into consideration the genetic structure of the species when designing a propagation program for the conservation of this species.
Parrotfishes and surgeonfishes perform important functional roles in the dynamics of coral reef systems. This is a consequence of their varied feeding behaviors ranging from targeted consumption of living plant material (primarily surgeonfishes) to feeding on detrital aggregates that are either scraped from the reef surface or excavated from the deeper reef substratum (primarily parrotfishes). Increased fishing pressure and widespread habitat destruction have led to population declines for several species of these two groups. Species-specific data on global distribution, population status, life history characteristics, and major threats were compiled for each of the 179 known species of parrotfishes and surgeonfishes to determine the likelihood of extinction of each species under the Categories and Criteria of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Due in part to the extensive distributions of most species and the life history traits exhibited in these two families, only three (1.7%) of the species are listed at an elevated risk of global extinction. The majority of the parrotfishes and surgeonfishes (86%) are listed as Least Concern, 10% are listed as Data Deficient and 1% are listed as Near Threatened. The risk of localized extinction, however, is higher in some areas, particularly in the Coral Triangle region. The relatively low proportion of species globally listed in threatened Categories is highly encouraging, and some conservation successes are attributed to concentrated conservation efforts. However, with the growing realization of man's profound impact on the planet, conservation actions such as improved marine reserve networks, more stringent fishing regulations, and continued monitoring of the population status at the species and community levels are imperative for the prevention of species loss in these groups of important and iconic coral reef fishes.
Over 1,000 mammal species are red-listed by IUCN, as Critically Endangered, Endangered or Vulnerable. Conservation of many threatened mammal species, even inside protected areas, depends on costly active day-to-day defence against poaching, bushmeat hunting, invasive species and habitat encroachment. Many parks agencies worldwide now rely heavily on tourism for routine operational funding: >50% in some cases. This puts rare mammals at a new risk, from downturns in tourism driven by external socioeconomic factors. Using the survival of individual animals as a metric or currency of successful conservation, we calculate here what proportions of remaining populations of IUCN-redlisted mammal species are currently supported by funds from tourism. This proportion is ≥5% for over half of the species where relevant data exist, ≥15% for one fifth, and up to 66% in a few cases. Many of these species, especially the most endangered, survive only in one single remaining subpopulation. These proportions are not correlated either with global population sizes or recognition as wildlife tourism icons. Most of the more heavily tourism-dependent species, however, are medium sized (>7.5 kg) or larger. Historically, biological concern over the growth of tourism in protected areas has centered on direct disturbance to wildlife. These results show that conservation of threatened mammal species has become reliant on revenue from tourism to a previously unsuspected degree. On the one hand, this provides new opportunities for conservation funding; but on the other, dependence on such an uncertain source of funding is a new, large and growing threat to red-listed species.
The huge conservation interest that mammals attract and the large datasets that have been collected on them have propelled a diversity of global mammal prioritization schemes, but no comprehensive global mammal conservation strategy. We highlight some of the potential discrepancies between the schemes presented in this theme issue, including: conservation of species or areas, reactive and proactive conservation approaches, conservation knowledge and action, levels of aggregation of indicators of trend and scale issues. We propose that recently collected global mammal data and many of the mammal prioritization schemes now available could be incorporated into a comprehensive global strategy for the conservation of mammals. The task of developing such a strategy should be coordinated by a super-partes, authoritative institution (e.g. the International Union for Conservation of Nature, IUCN). The strategy would facilitate funding agencies, conservation organizations and national institutions to rapidly identify a number of short-term and long-term global conservation priorities, and act complementarily to achieve them.
biodiversity; conservation action; conservation planning; conservation priority setting; International Union for Conservation of Nature; protected area
Several recent papers evaluate the relationship between ecological characteristics and extinction risk in bats. These studies report that extinction risk is negatively related to geographic range size and positively related to habitat specialization. Here, we evaluate the hypothesis that extinction risk is also related to dietary specialization in insectivorous vespertilionid bats using both traditional and phylogenetically-controlled analysis of variance. We collected dietary data and The World Conservation Union (IUCN) rankings for 44 Australian, European, and North American bat species. Our results indicate that species of conservation concern (IUCN ranking near threatened or above) are more likely to have a specialized diet than are species of least concern. Additional analyses show that dietary breadth is not correlated to geographic range size or wing morphology, characteristics previously found to correlate with extinction risk. Therefore, there is likely a direct relationship between dietary specialization and extinction risk; however, the large variation in dietary breadth within species of least concern suggests that diet alone cannot explain extinction risk. Our results may have important implications for the development of predictive models of extinction risk and for the assignment of extinction risk to insectivorous bat species. Similar analyses should be conducted on additional bat families to assess the generality of this relationship between niche breadth and extinction risk.
The Mediterranean Sea is a marine biodiversity hot spot. Here we combined an extensive literature analysis with expert opinions to update publicly available estimates of major taxa in this marine ecosystem and to revise and update several species lists. We also assessed overall spatial and temporal patterns of species diversity and identified major changes and threats. Our results listed approximately 17,000 marine species occurring in the Mediterranean Sea. However, our estimates of marine diversity are still incomplete as yet—undescribed species will be added in the future. Diversity for microbes is substantially underestimated, and the deep-sea areas and portions of the southern and eastern region are still poorly known. In addition, the invasion of alien species is a crucial factor that will continue to change the biodiversity of the Mediterranean, mainly in its eastern basin that can spread rapidly northwards and westwards due to the warming of the Mediterranean Sea. Spatial patterns showed a general decrease in biodiversity from northwestern to southeastern regions following a gradient of production, with some exceptions and caution due to gaps in our knowledge of the biota along the southern and eastern rims. Biodiversity was also generally higher in coastal areas and continental shelves, and decreases with depth. Temporal trends indicated that overexploitation and habitat loss have been the main human drivers of historical changes in biodiversity. At present, habitat loss and degradation, followed by fishing impacts, pollution, climate change, eutrophication, and the establishment of alien species are the most important threats and affect the greatest number of taxonomic groups. All these impacts are expected to grow in importance in the future, especially climate change and habitat degradation. The spatial identification of hot spots highlighted the ecological importance of most of the western Mediterranean shelves (and in particular, the Strait of Gibraltar and the adjacent Alboran Sea), western African coast, the Adriatic, and the Aegean Sea, which show high concentrations of endangered, threatened, or vulnerable species. The Levantine Basin, severely impacted by the invasion of species, is endangered as well.
This abstract has been translated to other languages (File S1).
The World Conservation Union (IUCN) Red List is widely recognized as the most authoritative and objective system for classifying species by their risk of extinction. Red List Indices (RLIs) illustrate the relative rate at which a particular set of species change in overall threat status (i.e. projected relative extinction-risk), based on population and range size and trends as quantified by Red List categories. RLIs can be calculated for any representative set of species that has been fully assessed at least twice. They are based on the number of species in each Red List category, and the number changing categories between assessments as a result of genuine improvement or deterioration in status. RLIs show a fairly coarse level of resolution, but for fully assessed taxonomic groups they are highly representative, being based on information from a high proportion of species worldwide. The RLI for the world's birds shows that that their overall threat status has deteriorated steadily during the years 1988–2004 in all biogeographic realms and ecosystems. A preliminary RLI for amphibians for 1980–2004 shows similar rates of decline. RLIs are in development for other groups. In addition, a sampled index is being developed, based on a stratified sample of species from all major taxonomic groups, realms and ecosystems. This will provide extinction-risk trends that are more representative of all biodiversity.
indicators; birds; amphibians; IUCN Red List; threatened species; extinction-risk
A recent complete assessment of the conservation status of 5487 mammal species demonstrated that at least one-fifth are at risk of extinction in the wild. We retrospectively identified genuine changes in extinction risk for mammals between 1996 and 2008 to calculate changes in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List Index (RLI). Species-level trends in the conservation status of mammalian diversity reveal that extinction risk in large-bodied species is increasing, and that the rate of deterioration has been most accelerated in the Indomalayan and Australasian realms. Expanding agriculture and hunting have been the main drivers of increased extinction risk in mammals. Site-based protection and management, legislation, and captive-breeding and reintroduction programmes have led to improvements in 24 species. We contextualize these changes, and explain why both deteriorations and improvements may be under-reported. Although this study highlights where conservation actions are leading to improvements, it fails to account for instances where conservation has prevented further deteriorations in the status of the world's mammals. The continued utility of the RLI is dependent on sustained investment to ensure repeated assessments of mammals over time and to facilitate future calculations of the RLI and measurement against global targets.
IUCN Red List; extinction risk; threat category; conservation status; biodiversity indicators; conservation action
A complete listing of the world's known plant species has long been considered desirable but has remained an elusive target for generations of botanists. The adoption of the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation has reinforced the urgent need for a global plant checklist to support, facilitate and monitor the conservation and sustainable use of plant diversity worldwide. The increasing availability of large databases of biological information over the Internet has demonstrated that many of the obstacles to the collation and dissemination of vast, shared datasets can be overcome. We examine the challenges that still remain to be addressed if the botanical community is to achieve its ambitious objective of delivering a working list of all known plant species by 2010.
DNA barcode is a new tool for taxon recognition and classification of biological organisms based on sequence of a fragment of
mitochondrial gene, cytochrome c oxidase I (COI). In view of the growing importance of the fish DNA barcoding for species
identification, molecular taxonomy and fish diversity conservation, we developed a Fish Barcode Information System (FBIS) for
Indian fishes, which will serve as a regional DNA barcode archival and analysis system. The database presently contains 2334
sequence records of COI gene for 472 aquatic species belonging to 39 orders and 136 families, collected from available published
data sources. Additionally, it contains information on phenotype, distribution and IUCN Red List status of fishes. The web version
of FBIS was designed using MySQL, Perl and PHP under Linux operating platform to (a) store and manage the acquisition (b)
analyze and explore DNA barcode records (c) identify species and estimate genetic divergence. FBIS has also been integrated with
appropriate tools for retrieving and viewing information about the database statistics and taxonomy. It is expected that FBIS would
be useful as a potent information system in fish molecular taxonomy, phylogeny and genomics.
The database is available for free at http://mail.nbfgr.res.in/fbis/
Genetic Divergence; Fish; LAMP; Phylogeny; Phylogeography; Taxonomy
Mangrove species are uniquely adapted to tropical and subtropical coasts, and although relatively low in number of species, mangrove forests provide at least US $1.6 billion each year in ecosystem services and support coastal livelihoods worldwide. Globally, mangrove areas are declining rapidly as they are cleared for coastal development and aquaculture and logged for timber and fuel production. Little is known about the effects of mangrove area loss on individual mangrove species and local or regional populations. To address this gap, species-specific information on global distribution, population status, life history traits, and major threats were compiled for each of the 70 known species of mangroves. Each species' probability of extinction was assessed under the Categories and Criteria of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Eleven of the 70 mangrove species (16%) are at elevated threat of extinction. Particular areas of geographical concern include the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of Central America, where as many as 40% of mangroves species present are threatened with extinction. Across the globe, mangrove species found primarily in the high intertidal and upstream estuarine zones, which often have specific freshwater requirements and patchy distributions, are the most threatened because they are often the first cleared for development of aquaculture and agriculture. The loss of mangrove species will have devastating economic and environmental consequences for coastal communities, especially in those areas with low mangrove diversity and high mangrove area or species loss. Several species at high risk of extinction may disappear well before the next decade if existing protective measures are not enforced.
Recent studies suggest that species' life histories and ecology can be used to forecast future extinction risk. Threatened species often share similar traits such that if a trait predisposing a species to decline or extinction is evolutionarily conserved, then close relatives of threatened species are themselves likely to be at risk. The phylogenetic distribution of current threat has been argued to provide insight into the species that could be threatened in the future when trait data are not available. Conservation criteria are typically based on multiple indices that capture different symptoms of threat including population trends and range contraction. However, there is no reason to assume consistent phylogenetic distributions of different symptoms. I construct a molecular phylogeny of 249 species of British birds (more than 93% of the breeding and wintering species) and use this to show that the species that are threatened due to population declines are phylogenetically more closely related than expected by chance alone. However, species that are listed for other reasons, including range contraction, are distributed randomly with respect to phylogeny. I suggest that while phylogeny can be informative with respect to identifying clades that are susceptible to some measures of extinction risk, such patterns are likely to be idiosyncratic with respect to symptom and taxa.
phylogeny; British birds; population decline; range contraction
The amphibian decline and extinction crisis demands urgent action to prevent further large numbers of species extinctions. Lists of priority species for conservation, based on a combination of species’ threat status and unique contribution to phylogenetic diversity, are one tool for the direction and catalyzation of conservation action. We describe the construction of a near-complete species-level phylogeny of 5713 amphibian species, which we use to create a list of evolutionarily distinct and globally endangered species (EDGE list) for the entire class Amphibia. We present sensitivity analyses to test the robustness of our priority list to uncertainty in species’ phylogenetic position and threat status. We find that both sources of uncertainty have only minor impacts on our ‘top 100‘ list of priority species, indicating the robustness of the approach. By contrast, our analyses suggest that a large number of Data Deficient species are likely to be high priorities for conservation action from the perspective of their contribution to the evolutionary history.
European bison, the largest mammal in Europe, after being exterminated in the wild and then restored during the 20th century is still listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN Red List of Threatened Species) as a species vulnerable to extinction. However, the increasing number of European bison, through creation of new and expansion of existing populations strongly increases the risk of human-bison conflict in the near future. We analyzed the depredation of farm crops by bison and the factors influencing the level of damage in the vicinity of two forest areas inhabited by bison in northeastern Poland. Between 2000 and 2010, the total cost of compensation was € 196,200. The level of damage and amount of compensation was increasing from year to year in both forests and correlated with the number of bison. The majority of damage (57 % of cases) was recorded in winter (December–March). Snow depth and temperature did not influence the frequency of damage. The incidences of damage increased with decreasing distance from the woodland patches, therefore, 69 % of cases in Białowieża Forest, and 80 % in Knyszyn Forest were recorded closer than 0.5 km from nearest woodland patch. The majority of the crops damaged by bison were cereals (61 %) but also hay (20 %) and rape (13 %). When compared to the availability of crops, bison strongly selected rape and rye in both regions. This study is the first addressing the increasing problem of human-bison conflict in re-introduced populations and analyzing long-term data on crop depredation. Such situations probably occur in the majority of growing and expanding bison populations, however, it has not yet to be monitored and is rather neglected in post-Soviet countries.
Białowieża Primeval Forest; Conservation management; Crop selection; Damage compensation; Seasonal migrations; Wildlife-human conflict
Detailed large-scale information on mammal distribution has often been lacking, hindering conservation efforts. We used the information from the 2009 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as a baseline for developing habitat suitability models for 5027 out of 5330 known terrestrial mammal species, based on their habitat relationships. We focused on the following environmental variables: land cover, elevation and hydrological features. Models were developed at 300 m resolution and limited to within species' known geographical ranges. A subset of the models was validated using points of known species occurrence. We conducted a global, fine-scale analysis of patterns of species richness. The richness of mammal species estimated by the overlap of their suitable habitat is on average one-third less than that estimated by the overlap of their geographical ranges. The highest absolute difference is found in tropical and subtropical regions in South America, Africa and Southeast Asia that are not covered by dense forest. The proportion of suitable habitat within mammal geographical ranges correlates with the IUCN Red List category to which they have been assigned, decreasing monotonically from Least Concern to Endangered. These results demonstrate the importance of fine-resolution distribution data for the development of global conservation strategies for mammals.
conservation priority setting; Red List; geographical range; range model; species distribution model; species richness
Several recent studies have reviewed the extent of fungal biodiversity, and
have used these data as basis for revised estimates of species numbers based
on known numbers of plants and insects. None of these studies, however, have
focused on fungal biodiversity in South Africa. Coinciding with the 100th
anniversary of the National Collection of Fungi (PREM) in South Africa in
2005, it is thus timely to reflect on the taxonomic research that has been
conducted in South Africa over the past Century. Information is presented on
the extent of fungal collections preserved at PREM, and the associated
research publications that have largely resulted from this resource. These
data are placed in context of the known plant and insect biodiversity, and
used as basis to estimate the potential number of fungi that could be expected
in South Africa. The conservative estimate is of approximately 200 000 species
without taking into account those associated with a substantial insect
Biodiversity; conservation; National Collection of Fungi; numbers of fungi; undescribed species
Although the maintenance of diversity of living systems is critical for ecosystem functioning, the accelerating pace of global change is threatening its preservation. Standardized methods for biodiversity assessment and monitoring are needed. Species diversity is one of the most widely adopted metrics for assessing patterns and processes of biodiversity, at both ecological and biogeographic scales. However, those perspectives differ because of the types of data that can be feasibly collected, resulting in differences in the questions that can be addressed. Despite a theoretical consensus on diversity metrics, standardized methods for its measurement are lacking, especially at the scales needed to monitor biodiversity for conservation and management purposes. We review the conceptual framework for species diversity, examine common metrics, and explore their use for biodiversity conservation and management. Key differences in diversity measures at ecological and biogeographic scales are the completeness of species lists and the ability to include information on species abundances. We analyse the major pitfalls and problems with quantitative measurement of species diversity, look at the use of weighting measures by phylogenetic distance, discuss potential solutions and propose a research agenda to solve the major existing problems.
biodiversity assessment; biogeography; diversity measurement; ecology; spatial scale
There is an urgent need to reduce drastically the rate at which biodiversity is declining worldwide. Phylogenetic methods are increasingly being recognised as providing a useful framework for predicting future losses, and guiding efforts for pre-emptive conservation actions. In this study, we used a reconstructed phylogenetic tree of angiosperm species of the Eastern Arc Mountains – an important African biodiversity hotspot – and described the distribution of extinction risk across taxonomic ranks and phylogeny. We provide evidence for both taxonomic and phylogenetic selectivity in extinction risk. However, we found that selectivity varies with IUCN extinction risk category. Vulnerable species are more closely related than expected by chance, whereas endangered and critically endangered species are not significantly clustered on the phylogeny. We suggest that the general observation for taxonomic and phylogenetic selectivity (i.e. phylogenetic signal, the tendency of closely related species to share similar traits) in extinction risks is therefore largely driven by vulnerable species, and not necessarily the most highly threatened. We also used information on altitudinal distribution and climate to generate a predictive model of at-risk species richness, and found that greater threatened species richness is found at higher altitude, allowing for more informed conservation decision making. Our results indicate that evolutionary history can help predict plant susceptibility to extinction threats in the hyper-diverse but woefully-understudied Eastern Arc Mountains, and illustrate the contribution of phylogenetic approaches in conserving African floristic biodiversity where detailed ecological and evolutionary data are often lacking.
The rapid destruction of the planet's biodiversity has prompted the nations of the world to set a target of achieving a significant reduction in the rate of loss of biodiversity by 2010. However, we do not yet have an adequate way of monitoring progress towards achieving this target. Here we present a method for producing indices based on the IUCN Red List to chart the overall threat status (projected relative extinction risk) of all the world's bird species from 1988 to 2004. Red List Indices (RLIs) are based on the number of species in each Red List category, and on the number changing categories between assessments as a result of genuine improvement or deterioration in status. The RLI for all bird species shows that their overall threat status has continued to deteriorate since 1988. Disaggregated indices show that deteriorations have occurred worldwide and in all major ecosystems, but with particularly steep declines in the indices for Indo-Malayan birds (driven by intensifying deforestation of the Sundaic lowlands) and for albatrosses and petrels (driven by incidental mortality in commercial longline fisheries). RLIs complement indicators based on species population trends and habitat extent for quantifying global trends in the status of biodiversity. Their main weaknesses are that the resolution of status changes is fairly coarse and that delays may occur before some status changes are detected. Their greatest strength is that they are based on information from nearly all species in a taxonomic group worldwide, rather than a potentially biased subset. At present, suitable data are only available for birds, but indices for other taxonomic groups are in development, as is a sampled index based on a stratified sample from all major taxonomic groups.
An index is developed from the IUCN Red List that measures the overall threat status of taxa and reveals that the status of the world's birds has deteriorated since 1988
Assessment of conservation status is done both for areas or habitats and for
species (or taxa). IUCN Red List categories have been the principal method of
categorising species in terms of extinction risk, and have been shown to be
robust and helpful in the groups for which they have been developed. A recent
study highlights properties associated with extinction risk in flowering plants,
focusing on the species-rich hot spot of the Cape region of South Africa, and
concludes that merely following methods derived from studies of vertebrates may
not provide the best estimates of extinction risk for plants. Biology,
geography, and history all are important factors in risk, and the study poses
many questions about how we categorise and assess species for conservation
The northern part of India harbours a great diversity of medicinal plants due to its distinct geography and ecological marginal conditions. The traditional medical systems of northern India are part of a time tested culture and honored still by people today. These traditional systems have been curing complex disease for more than 3,000 years. With rapidly growing demand for these medicinal plants, most of the plant populations have been depleted, indicating a lack of ecological knowledge among communities using the plants. Thus, an attempt was made in this study to focus on the ecological status of ethnomedicinal plants, to determine their availability in the growing sites, and to inform the communities about the sustainable exploitation of medicinal plants in the wild.
The ecological information regarding ethnomedicinal plants was collected in three different climatic regions (tropical, sub-tropical and temperate) for species composition in different forest layers. The ecological information was assessed using the quadrate sampling method. A total of 25 quadrats, 10 × 10 m were laid out at random in order to sample trees and shrubs, and 40 quadrats of 1 × 1 m for herbaceous plants. In each climatic region, three vegetation sites were selected for ecological information; the mean values of density, basal cover, and the importance value index from all sites of each region were used to interpret the final data. Ethnomedicinal uses were collected from informants of adjacent villages. About 10% of inhabitants (older, experienced men and women) were interviewed about their use of medicinal plants. A consensus analysis of medicinal plant use between the different populations was conducted.
Across the different climatic regions a total of 57 species of plants were reported: 14 tree species, 10 shrub species, and 33 herb species. In the tropical and sub-tropical regions, Acacia catechu was the dominant tree while Ougeinia oojeinensis in the tropical region and Terminalia belerica in the sub-tropical region were least dominant reported. In the temperate region, Quercus leucotrichophora was the dominant tree and Pyrus pashia the least dominant tree. A total of 10 shrubs were recorded in all three regions: Adhatoda vasica was common species in the tropical and sub-tropical regions however, Rhus parviflora was common species in the sub-tropical and temperate regions. Among the 33 herbs, Sida cordifolia was dominant in the tropical and sub-tropical regions, while Barleria prionitis the least dominant in tropical and Phyllanthus amarus in the sub-tropical region. In temperate region, Vernonia anthelmintica was dominant and Imperata cylindrica least dominant. The consensus survey indicated that the inhabitants have a high level of agreement regarding the usages of single plant. The index value was high (1.0) for warts, vomiting, carminative, pain, boils and antiseptic uses, and lowest index value (0.33) was found for bronchitis.
The medicinal plants treated various ailments. These included diarrhea, dysentery, bronchitis, menstrual disorders, gonorrhea, pulmonary affections, migraines, leprosy. The ecological studies showed that the tree density and total basal cover increased from the tropical region to sub-tropical and temperate regions. The species composition changed with climatic conditions. Among the localities used for data collection in each climatic region, many had very poor vegetation cover. The herbaceous layer decreased with increasing altitude, which might be an indication that communities at higher elevations were harvesting more herbaceous medicinal plants, due to the lack of basic health care facilities. Therefore, special attention needs to be given to the conservation of medicinal plants in order to ensure their long-term availability to the local inhabitants. Data on the use of individual species of medicinal plants is needed to provide an in-depth assessment of the plants availability in order to design conservation strategies to protect individual species.
Assam is very rich in plant biodiversity as well as in ethnic diversity and has a great traditional knowledge base in plant resources. It is inhabited by the largest number of tribes and they lead an intricate life totally dependent on forest plants. The Mising is the major section and second largest tribal community of Assam and have a rich tradition of religion and culture. Their religious practices and beliefs are based on supernaturalism. A study of the plants related to magico religious beliefs in Dobur Uie of Mising is carried out. The results revealed the use of 30 plants belonging to 23 families. All plant species are used both in religious purpose as well as in the treatment of different ailments. Details of the uses of plants and conservational practices employed in Dobur Uie are provided. Our findings on the use of plants in Dobur Uie ritual reflect that some plants are facing problems for survival and they need urgent conservation before their elimination. Because this elimination may threat the rich tradition of Mising culture. Most of the plants that are domesticated for different rituals are almost same in all Mising populated areas.