1 Jun 2023

62 Desiccation-Tolerant Plant Species Discovered In Western Ghats, What makes These Plants Unique And What Will be Their Applications In Agriculture

India’s biodiversity hotspot, the Western Ghats, is home to 62 Desiccation-Tolerant Vascular Plant Species which could have applications in agriculture, particularly in areas with scarcity of water.

Desiccation-tolerant (DT) vascular plants are able to withstand extreme dehydration, losing up to 95% of their water content, and they revive themselves once water is available again. 

Can survive in harsh, arid environments

This unique ability allows them to survive in harsh, arid environments that would be uninhabitable for most other plants. DT plants have been studied for their possible applications in agriculture, particularly in areas with limited water resources.  In India, DT plants have been relatively understudied. 

A recent study by scientists from Agharkar Research Institute (ARI) Pune, an autonomous institute of the Department of Science and Technology (DST), has identified 62 DT species in the Western Ghats, many more than the earlier known nine species.

The research published in the Nordic Journal of Botany provides an overview of Indian DT plants, with a special focus on the WG, and includes an inventory of species with their habitat preferences.

Western Ghats’ importance as a global DT hotspot

In the inventory of 62 species, 16 are Indian endemic, and 12 are exclusive to the Western Ghats outcrops, highlighting Western Ghats’ importance as a global desiccation-tolerant (DT) hotspot. In addition to rock outcrops, tree trunks in the partially shaded forests were also found to be crucial habitats for DT species, as per the study.

Could lead to development of more drought-resistant crops

The findings of the study can provide valuable insights into the biodiversity and ecology of the Western Ghats and aid in the conservation of DT plant species. Besides, understanding the mechanisms by which DT plants can tolerate dehydration could lead to the development of crops that are more drought-resistant and require less water.

The team led by Dr. Mandar Datar and involving Smrithy Vijayan, Aboli Kulkarni, and Bhushan Shigwan collaborated with Dr. Stefan Porembski from Rostock University Germany, who is recognized as an expert of tropical rock outcrops.

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