Species recovery programmes
Species recovery programmes are among the most relevant research areas in the context of species becoming threatened due to disturbed habitats, fragmentation through human encroachments, development projects or roads and sometimes due to natural causes. We have attended to a couple of tree species and several more are on the anvil. A multidisciplinary approach is unavoidable and we bring together expertise in ecology, genetics, biotechnology and silviculture to help understand the underlying constraint and to save the species from extinction. Examples are Humboltia bourdilonii, Dipterocarpus bourdilonii, Syzygium palghatense, Semecarpus kathlakensis, to name a few.
Bamboo and Rattan research
Two groups of plants that have great implications for the livelihood of large sections of artisans, forest dwelling communities and the industry are bamboo and rattan and the Western Ghats are richly endowed with this resource . KFRI had played a pioneering role in studying all aspects of the biology, cultivation and utilization of these important resources and today we are well recognized in the country and globally.
The simple vegetative propagation methods developed for propagating bamboo species and the micropropagation techniques which permit mass clonal propagation to meet large demands have great relevance in this group of plants which show a unpredictable flowering behavior and supply of seeds is always uncertain. Our scientists are acknowledged experts in the systematic of bamboo and rattan and have to their credit the decovery of a number of new species from the forests of the state and other parts of the country. In the estimation of the bamboo resources of the state our studies have been pioneering. We propose to study the bamboo using molecular tools that can help characterize the large number of species and to help understand the factors that control flowering.
The collective expertise that KFRI has accumulated over the years has come in good stead when we undertook training programmes for forest officials and farmers. These programmes were immensely successful and popular and today we are the nodal centre for the southern states under the National Bamboo Mission.
Mangroves, Myristica swamps, laterite hills, Kole lands
Mangroves evoke images quite different from the forests yet these valuable biomes play a critical role in maintaining equilibrium of the estuarine region. Their importance was brought to the fore after the tsunami struck our shores causing havoc while areas with mangroves were spared to a great extent. The importance to the aquatic life is equally important and the enigma of plants tolerant of high levels of salt continues to fascinate scientists and may one day contribute to the development of salt tolerant food crops. In Kerala the mangroves continue to be under pressure from agriculture and real estate development and the absence of a clear policy has resulted in ambiguity regarding their status and relevance to economy.
We have taken an active interest in research on mangroves in recent times and have been studying the biodiversity that resides in it . We hope to bring out in finer detail the complexity of the mangrove ecosystem and help formulate policies for its effective conservation.
The Myristica swamps formed an important part of nature's mechanisms for water conservation for the niche. Until recent times when these resources all over the state were converted to agricultural land, these ecological niches supported a unique biodiversity adapted to the characteristically anoxic waterlogged soils
Wood Balance study
It was myth busting when our forays into the timber market to study the wood balance revealed that much of the timber came from homesteads and not from forest land as was the commonly held belief. It also followed that there was little economic sense to invest so much of the State's prime land and resources in planting of timber species, even when it was teak - the king of timbers. The productivity of the planted forests in suitable sites needs to be improved further with the best of technology. The poorer sites could ideally be returned to the original natural state and protected to serve a more valuable function - its environmental benefits.