Information provided by C. R. Babu and Meena Singh, reviewed by S. Karthikeyan.
India has an estimated 15,000 vascular plant species including pteridophytes and about 5000 endemic flowering plants. The geographical position of India and its varied climatic conditions are factors which contribute to the diversity of its flora. Many species are of economic or medicinal value and local societies traditionally have managed plant resources sustainably; however dramatic population growth in the current century has placed an enormous strain on these natural resources.
Destruction of forests for local fuel use, for timber by outside agencies, over-grazing by cattle and goats, quarrying and mining, development activity and reclamation of "unproductive" land have all lead to a decline in the country's floristic diversity. Forests have undergone varying degrees of transformation, ranging from degenerative changes brought about by accelerated rates of soil erosion to complete replacement by monoculture. The effects of overexploitation are manifested in increasing desertification of our lands and changing global climate patterns. Much conservation work is called for in India, but regeneration of endemic flora in regions characterised by economic under-development and rural poverty will only succeed as long as it yields diverse and tangible benefits to inhabitants of the region.
Here we present a conservation assessment and status report for India's most threatened cacti and succulents. Basic survey and population monitoring, as well as conservation status reports, remain to be carried out for many taxa.
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