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Vol. 20 No. 4 - October 2014

Indiscriminate botanical specimen collection:
A serious threat to endangered species of plants

By: Saikat Kumar Basu*

The practice of botanical excursions across India lead by different botany departments under different universities have been doing much damage to the local flora rather than teaching the students about the floral diversity of the eco-regions where such excursions are being conducted. The insensitive and callous collection process, picking and damaging of rare species of bryophytes, pteridophytes, gymnosperms, orchids etc have been an important factor contributing towards endangerment of many such precious species in their natural habitats. It is now important for Indian universities to look into the current curricula and rethink about making the field excursions more knowledge driven and objective oriented for empowering students with the right concept of conservation of the local flora rather than destroying them with some long term planning. In addition to botanical explorations of the local flora, curricula should include emphasis on identifying, studying and appreciating the local biodiversity and also understanding the causes and concerns of the conservation of the local flora of the eco-regions where field excursions are conducted. Rather than physical collection of species, emphasis should be placed to catch the different species in the form of sketches, images and photographs along with their distribution maps. Instead of collecting rare ferns, horsetails, lycopods etc for preparing herbarium specimens, the primary focus could be turned towards studying their habits, habitats, ecological successions, floral assemblages to get a more comprehensive and holistic idea of the floral biodiversity of the target ecozones. The collection of plants for herbarium specimens should be restricted only to the collection of local weeds for such purpose rather than collecting specimens of rare, threatened and endangered species.

*University of Lethbridge, Lethbridge AB Canada, [email protected]

This article has been reproduced from the archives of EnviroNews - Newsletter of ISEB India.

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