New study discovers 62 desiccation-tolerant vascular plant species in India’s Western Ghats, with potential applications in agriculture & conservation. These species of plants can withstand harsh environments.
GS III: Environment and Ecology
Dimensions of the Article:
- DT Plant: Desiccation-Tolerant Vascular Plants
- Color Variations and Morphological Characteristics
- Significance of Desiccation-Tolerant Vascular Plants
DT Plant: Desiccation-Tolerant Vascular Plants
- DT plants can tolerate the desiccation of their vegetative tissues.
- They are common in tropical rock outcrops.
- These plants can survive high dehydration, losing up to 95% of their water content.
- The global population of these species ranges between 300 and 1,500.
- Out of the 62 species found, 16 are native to India, and 12 are restricted to Western Ghats outcrops.
- DT plants can be found in both tropical and temperate regions.
- They regenerate quickly when water supplies are restored and are frequently found on rocky outcrops in the tropics.
Adaptation to Harsh Environments
- DT plants are crucial for the world’s warming as they can thrive at higher temperatures.
- Hydration and desiccation resistance are two studied mechanisms in plants to survive in harsh environments.
- Indian desiccation-tolerant plants are primarily found in forest rock outcrops and partially shaded tree trunks.
- Ferricretes and basaltic plateaus are preferred habitats.
- Glyphochloa is the dominant genus, mainly consisting of annual species occurring on plateaus.
- Glyphochloa goaensis, Glyphochloa ratnagirica, and Glyphochloa santapaui are found only on ferricretes, while other species are found on both ferricretes and basaltic plateaus.
Color Variations and Morphological Characteristics
- DT species exhibit color variations and distinct morphological characteristics.
- Tripogon species change colors from greyish in dry conditions to green in hydrated situations.
- In Oropetium thomaeum, the leaf cloud transforms from green to dark purple or orange in the hydrated phase and ranges from brownish to ash during desiccation.
- Ferns (fronds) display various characteristics, such as curling inwards towards the costa, exposing spores at the start of the dry season and during brief dry spells.
- However, not all species show the same behavior. For example, C lanuginosus leaves fold and shrivel inward to protect the chlorophyllous portion, avoiding direct sunlight exposure during desiccation.
Significance of Desiccation-Tolerant Vascular Plants
Climate Resilience in Agriculture:
- The discovery of desiccation-tolerant vascular plants is significant for agriculture, especially in regions facing water scarcity and high temperatures due to climate change.
- These plants have evolved mechanisms to survive extreme dehydration, making them potential candidates for developing climate-resilient crops.
Genetic Resource for Crop Improvement:
- The genes of desiccation-tolerant plants hold valuable traits that can be harnessed to enhance the resilience of conventional crops to water stress and high temperatures.
- By studying the genetic makeup and adaptation strategies of these plants, scientists can identify and incorporate these desirable traits into crop breeding programs.
High-Temperature Tolerant Crops:
- Utilizing the genetic resources of DT plants, researchers can work towards developing crop varieties that can thrive in high-temperature environments.
- High-temperature tolerant crops can better withstand heat stress, maintain productivity, and contribute to food security in the face of climate change.
- By understanding the physiological and biochemical mechanisms of desiccation-tolerant plants, scientists can design crops that are more water-efficient.
- Such crops would require less irrigation and could be grown in regions with limited water resources, helping to mitigate the impacts of water scarcity on agriculture.
Ensuring Food Security:
- Climate-resilient crops with improved tolerance to high temperatures and water stress can contribute to increased agricultural productivity and overall food security.
- Developing crops with enhanced climate resilience is crucial to meeting the rising global demand for food in the future.
-Source: Down To Earth