RET’ Species Recorded in Southern Western Ghats

RET’ Species Recorded in Southern Western Ghats


Team from Botanical Survey of India has gathered research evidence on rare, threatened plants in the Southern Western Ghats

BSI project on endemic tree resources:

  •  The Botanical Survey of India (BSI) has been undertaking a three-year programme to document economically important endemic trees nationally.
  •  The BSI project on endemic tree resources in the southern Western Ghats, has documented about 250 ‘RET’ species.
  •  The assessment of some of these conducted by the International Union for Conservation of Nature for the IUCN Red List puts them under vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered categories
  •   However, for nearly two decades, some of these plants have not been assessed by international conservation bodies.
  •   The 22 day expedition in the Southern western Ghats started from Kurichyar mala in Wayanad.
  •   The researchers have commented that a lot of existing knowledge on these plants has come up from the tribal communities. On contrary, the common man is unaware or has not even heard of many RET plants.
What are RET species?

·   RET is the acronym for Rare, Endangered and Threatened.

·   Rare, Endangered and Threatened (RET) plant species can be defined as species with narrow geographical distribution ranges, highly specific habitat requirements and/or species restricted only to small populations.

 Know about Botanical Survey of India (BSI)

International Union for Conservation of Nature(IUCN)

· The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is a membership Union uniquely composed of both government and civil society organisations.

· The IUCN was created in 1948

·  IUCN is the global authority on the status of the natural world and the measures needed to safeguard it.


  • It provides public, private and non-governmental organisations with the knowledge and tools that enable human progress, economic development and nature conservation to take place together.

Key Environmental Agreements

·  IUCN member organisations meet every four years at the IUCN World Conservation Congress to set priorities and agree on the Union’s work programme.

·  IUCN congresses have produced several key international environmental agreements such as the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), the World Heritage Convention, and the Ramsar Convention on wetlands.


IUCN Red List

Founded in 1964,the IUCN Red List is the world’s most comprehensive inventory of the global conservation status of biological species

A series of Regional Red Lists are produced by countries or organizations, which assess the risk of extinction to species within a political management unit.


To convey the urgency of conservation issues to the public and policy makers, as well as help the international community to try to reduce species extinction.


According to IUCN (1996), the goals of the Red List are:

·   to provide scientifically based information on the status of species and subspecies at a global level

·   to draw attention to the magnitude and importance of threatened biodiversity

·   to influence national and international policy and decision-making, and

·   to provide information to guide actions to conserve biological diversity.

IUCN Red List Categories

·   Species are classified by the IUCN Red List into nine groups

·   These are set through criteria such as rate of decline, population size, area of geographic distribution, and degree of population and distribution fragmentation.

1.   Extinct (EX).

2.  Extinct in the wild (EW)

3.  Critically endangered (CR)

4.   Endangered (EN)

5. Vulnerable (VU)

6.  Near threatened (NT)

7.  Least concern (LC)

8.  Data deficient (DD)

9.  Not evaluated (NE)

   Why Western Ghats?

  •   The Western Ghats has been recognised as one of the 34 hotspot ecosystems in the world in terms of species and endemism.
  •   The Southern western Ghats consisting of southern parts of Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu are the richest in terms of biodiversity.
  •   There are over 4500 flowering plants, of which 1500 are endemic to the Ghats.

Map of Southern Western Ghats

Image courtesy:


  •   About 177 species were recorded in Kerala’s Wayanad district
  •  These species were recorded especially from biodiversity hotspots like Kurichyarmala, Ranimala, Aranamala, Chembra peak, Periya and Kuruva Island.
  •   4 RET species were found in Masinagudi, Kallatti and Pandallur in the Nilgiris.
  •   The Malabar Coast, Periyar National Park, Sholayar-Valparai region and Anamalai were part of the project.

Other Regions

  •   As a part of the project, team had also visited the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and many regions of the Eastern Ghats.
  •   127 endemic trees have been documented in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands

Significance of the Project

  •   Evidence on both medicinally and economically important plants has been collected.


Medicinally important: Aglaia malabarica (critically endangered in the Red List)

Economically important: Hopea ponga

  •  Researchers further aim at studying pharmacological values and economic importance of these plants.
  •  Better records of poorly documented, heavily exploited or habitat-deprived species have been possible which is expected to help in better conservation of these plant species.

Biodiversity is the greatest treasure we have… Its diminishment is to be prevented at all cost”

Thomas Eisner

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