Research at the Department of Forest Ecology focuses around developing strategies for in situ as well as ex situ conservation of rare, endangered and threatened (RET) species besides monitoring of the impacts of climate change and vegetation process in the natural forests and human modified landscapes. Department also maintains a medicinal plant garden in the Peechi campus of KFRI. The research on RET species include:
- Developing a Database on Rare Endangered and Threatened (RET) Plants of Kerala.
The work involves a comprehensive account about the RET plants of the state including the nature of work was carried out on these plants are unknown. As a result, many of the studies are found overlapping and duplicated. Some species are not even studied after its taxonomic identity. In this background Forest Ecology Department of the Forest Ecology and Biodiversity conservation Division of the Institute has prepared a Database for the Rare, Endangered and Threatened (RET) plants of the Kerala State with the available published and grey literature.
The study is therefore facilitated to understand the RET plants so far recorded in the state with literature available on each species. The primary data collected on each species were hyperlinked to appropriate research components for reference. The database in Excel sheet of the computer (2007 Excel) has been uploaded in the Institute Web site and made available to all end-users for reference and concern.
- Conservation through restoration of endemic endangered trees of Western Ghats of Kerala.
Plant rarity and endangerment is become a regular phenomenon in the Western Ghats. Some species are becoming rare due to its own biological problems such as pollination complexities, pest infestation, short viability of seeds, inability of natural regeneration etc. while others by habitat loss, over exploitation of resources etc. A systematic study is therefore high time to rescue these species from its untimely endangerment.
In this back drop, a multidisciplinary study has been initiated on two endemic endangered trees of the Western Ghats of Kerala viz., Drypetes malabarica (Bedd.) Airy Shaw (Euphorbiaceae) and Hydnocarpus macrocarpa (Bedd.) Warb. (Flacourtiaceae),
The study is targeted to identify the causes for the rarity of the species in situ by exploring the ecology, biology, climatic and edaphic analysis of the species. Standardization of methods of propagation / multiplication through vegetative and seed, seedling production and restoration in the natural habitats as part of conservation and management of the species are also involved.
- Development of conventional propagation protocol for endemic endangered trees of Western Ghats of Kerala
Various studies reveal that at least 600 flowering species of the Western Ghats of Kerala are passing through various stages of rarity in their habitats. The reality is much more worsened by knowing the fact that these species are depleting even without keeping an alternate genetic stock either in situ or ex situ.
With this background, a study on the development of propagation protocol for endemic endangered trees of Western Ghats of Kerala was initiated. Species such as Drypetes confertiflora, Drypetes malabarica, Hydnocarpus macrocarpa, Ormosia travancorica etc are under the line of research.
- Ecological restoration of endemic endangered trees of Western Ghats.
After analysing the ecology, biology, climatic and edaphic factors in situ along with strategies for conservation of the species, the seedlings of the species were reintroduced where the species had been pre existed. The restocking of the species was also practised through enrichment planting in the degraded populations of the species.
Successful restoration was carried out in two endemic endangered trees, Dipterocarpus bourdillonii and Humboldtia bourdillonii.
- Medicinal Plant Garden in the Campus
There are around 500 live collections of medicinal plants consisting herbs, shrubs, climbers and trees in the garden of 1.5 acres in extent. The garden is open to college students, researchers and public. The collection in the garden is enriched by bringing new plants collected from the wild or through exchange with other Botanic gardens. Multiplication and distribution of plants in demand to the public is also carried as part of regular activity of the garden.
Ongoing Research Projects
- Reproductive traits and phenology of endemic plant species in New Amarambalam reserved forests of Nilagiri Biosphere
- Using soundscapes to examine spatio temporal ecological dynamics and assess biodiversity of a protected area in the Western Ghats
- Long term monitoring of Strobilanthes kunthianus in Eravikulam National Park-Phase I.
- Mapping, Biodiversity inventory and tree health assessment of KFRI campus
Ongoing Extension Projects
- Management and monitoring of tree species trial plots in the KFRI sub centre campus
- Establishment of a field gene-bank for RET tree species in the KFRI sub centre campus, Nilambur
- Improvement of facilities in the teak museum for enhancing its Eco-tourism values
- Maintenance of permanent plots established by KFRI in natural forests of Kerala- Phase I
- Maintenance of bioresources Nature Park in the KFRI Sub Centre, Nilambur
Contact: Head of the Department
Kerala Forest Research Institute
Peechi 680653, Thrissur, Kerala, INDIA