New coffee table book discusses the high alien diversity in Tamil Nadu

The gravity of the threat posed by alien invasive species was in the spotlight when the Madras High Court ordered the removal of Prosopis juliflora — Seemai Karuvelam — which has overrun the landscape of Tamil Nadu. Seemai Karuvelam, however, is just one of the many invasive alien plant and animal species.

A coffee table book — Wild Tamil Nadu: A Veritable Cornucopia of Nature — brought out by the Tamil Nadu Biodiversity Board says the alien diversity in the State is high.

“Of the 5745 taxa of flowering plants reporting for the State, 1274 taxa are alien. 998 taxa of the alien species are found only under cultivation and about 276 taxa have been naturalised or turned invasive,” the book, a maiden effort by the Board explains.

And the book, a feast for the eyes, covers every aspect of the biodiversity — habitats, plants, insects, birds, wild and domestic animals, alien species, medicinal plants, coastal ecosystem, urban angles — and each chapter, with descriptive notes, is accompanied by fantastic photographs. The funding for the project came from the National Biodiversity Authority.

“The book will facilitate many people to appreciate biodiversity, sensitise them towards conservation and spread the message of the dire need to protect our natural resources from ravaging human intervention. It can also serve as a resource and reference material for universities and colleges,” said A. Udhayan, Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and Secretary, Tamil Nadu Biodiversity Board.

Tamil Nadu is one of the biodiversity-rich States in India, largely due to its varied edaphic, climatic and topographic factors, with an elevation ranging from sea level to 2637 metres. It also ranks first among in Angiosperm diversity with 5745 taxa herbs, 1365 shrubs, 1115 trees and 508 climbers.

Insects number over 3,600 species and butterflies account for 319 species. Insects are followed by fish, in terms of diversity, with about 2,500 marine and freshwater forms and it is high in the Western Ghats.

Mr. Udhayan said the book would also be useful to policy planners to mainstream the agenda of conservation.

The book is compiled by D. Narasimhan, member of the State Biodiversity Board and former Head of the Department of Botany in Madras Christian College, and his student Sheeba J. Irwin.

“Everyone talks about biodiversity and the book will go a long way in creating awareness and understanding about it. The book will also be a model for biodiversity boards in other States,” said Dr. Narasimhan The book acknowledged the contributors by publishing their photographs with their backgrounds.

Source: September 13, 2018, The Hindu