A novel approach to assessing the conservation status of woody plants
Indian Institute Of Science
Several species of woody plants endemic to the Western Ghats (WG) are yet to be assigned IUCN conservation status, or have been assigned a status based on inaccurate information. Lack of sufficient information on distribution and threats to these species have proved a major impediment in carrying out reliable evaluations. Our study tries to address this problem by filling the gaps in existing knowledge on distribution and population size of these endemic woody plants.
Using systematic field surveys and published secondary records, we put together an exhaustive dataset on species occurrence and abundance of endemic woody plants of the WG. We used a novel approach to assign conservation status using species distribution modeling as tool to estimate the geographical area occupied by a species as well as its population size. Using the IUCN criteria we then used these estimates of area and population size to assign red list categories.
We carried out species evaluations for more than 200 species of endemic woody plants. Previously, many of these species were either misclassified due to inaccurate data or classified as data deficient. Our approach makes the species evaluations much more objective and transparent as compared to the traditional approaches. The distribution maps and population estimates we have generated would serve as a benchmark and allow for more robust evaluations in the future.
Carrying out species assessments and assigning conservation status is crucial for prioritizing species. We developed, for the first time, a comprehensive database on distribution, population and conservation status for more than 200 species of endemic woody plants. We hope that our effort would create awareness among scientists, ecologists and conservation managers, and focus conservation efforts on these threatened species and their last remaining habitats.