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Three Himalayan Medicinal Plants Enter IUCN Red List


Three medicinal plant species found in the Himalayas have made it to IUCN Red List of Threatened Species following a recent assessment.


GS III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Three Himalayan Medicinal Plants
  2. About IUCN

About Three Himalayan Medicinal Plants

Meizotropis pellita
  • Commonly known as Patwa, is a perennial shrub with restricted distribution that is endemic to Uttarakhand.
  • The species is listed as ‘critically endangered’ based on its limited area of occupancy (less than 10 sq. km)
  • The species is threatened by deforestation, habitat fragmentation and forest fires.
  • The essential oil extracted from the leaves of the species possesses strong antioxidants and can be a promising natural substitute for synthetic antioxidants in pharmaceutical industries.
Fritillaria cirrhosa
  • Also called, Himalayan fritillary, it is a perennial bulbous herb.
  • It is reasonable to conclude a decline of at least 30% of its population over the assessment period (22 to 26 years).
  • Considering the rate of decline, long generation length, poor germination potential, high trade value, extensive harvesting pressure and illegal trade, the species is listed as ‘vulnerable’.
  • In China, the species is used for the treatment of bronchial disorders and pneumonia.
  • The plant is also a strong cough suppressant and source of expectorant drugs in traditional Chinese medicine.
Dactylorhiza hatagirea
  • Known as Salampanja, it is threatened by habitat loss, livestock grazing, deforestation, and climate change the species is listed as ‘endangered’.
  • It is extensively used in Ayurveda, Siddha, Unani and other alternative systems of medicine to cure dysentery, gastritis, chronic fever, cough and stomach aches.
  • It is a perennial tuberous species endemic to the Hindu Kush and Himalayan ranges of Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, India, Nepal, and Pakistan.

About IUCN: 

  • Established in 1964, the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species has evolved to become the world’s most comprehensive information source on the global extinction risk status of animal, fungus and plant species. 
  • The IUCN Red List is a critical indicator of the health of the world’s biodiversity.  
  • It provides information about range, population size, habitat and ecology, use and/or trade, threats, and conservation actions that will help inform necessary conservation decisions. 
  • The IUCN Red List is used by government agencies, wildlife departments, conservation-related non-governmental organisations (NGOs), natural resource planners, educational organisations, students, and the business community.  
The main objectives are: 
  • Identification and documentation of endangered species. 
  • Providing a global index of the decline of biodiversity. 
  • Developing awareness about the importance of threatened biodiversity. 
  • Defining conservation priorities at the local level and guiding conservation action. 
  • Every four years, IUCN convenes the IUCN World Conservation Congress to set the global conservation agenda. 

IUCN Red List: 

The IUCN system uses a set of five quantitative criteria to assess the extinction risk of a given species. In general, these criteria consider: 

  • The rate of population decline. 
  • The geographic range. 
  • Whether the species already possesses a small population size. 
  • Whether the species is very small or lives in a restricted area. 
  • Whether the results of a quantitative analysis indicate a high probability of extinction in the wild. 

Red List divides species into nine categories: 

  • Not Evaluated (NE) 
  • Data Deficient (DD) 
  • Least Concern (LC) 
  • Near Threatened (NT)  
  • Vulnerable (VU)  
  • Endangered (EN) 
  • Critically Endangered (CR)  
  • Extinct in the Wild (EW)  
  • Extinct (EX) 

Exceptions to classification: 

  • All else being equal, a species experiencing an 90 percent decline over 10 years (or three generations), for example, would be classified as critically endangered.
  •  Likewise, another species undergoing a 50 percent decline over the same period would be classified as endangered, and one experiencing a 30 percent reduction over the same time frame would be considered vulnerable.
  • It is important to understand, however, that a species cannot be classified by using one criterion alone;
  • it is essential for the scientist doing the assessment to consider all five criteria when determining the status of the species.

-Source: The Hindu

December 2023