Researchers have discovered new grass-like plant species named Fimbristylis agasthyamalaensis in Ponmudi hills within the Agasthyamala Biosphere Reserve in the Western Ghats biodiversity hotspot. It has been classified as sedge, the grass-like plant and has been named after the locality from which it was found.
The new species of plant belongs to the Cyperaceae family. Its flowering and fruiting were observed from October to March. In India, Cyperaceae genus is represented by 122 species, of which 87 are reported from the Western Ghats. Many of the known Cyperaceae species are medicinal plants or used as fodder.
Fimbristylis agasthyamalaensis is highly prone to wild grazing. It is also subject to anthropogenic pressures as its habitat falls within tourism spot and perimeter of place of worship that could lead to its extinction in absence of scientific conservation. Researchers have recommended preliminary conservation assessment of plant as ‘critically endangered,’ according to IUCN criteria.
Agasthyamala Biosphere Reserve (ABR)
ABR in situated at the southern-most end of the Western Ghats and spread over two southern states Kerala and Tamil Nadu. It was established in 2001. It is named after Agastya Mala peak that rises up to almost 1868 metres above sea level, in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala. In March 2016, it was included in the World Network of Biosphere Reserves of UNESCO.
ABR covers an area of 3,500 sq km at an altitude ranging from 100 metres to 1,868 metres above the Mean Sea Level. It covers Peppara and Shendurney wildlife sanctuaries and parts of the Neyyar sanctuary in Kerala and the Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve of Tamil Nadu.
Its flora mostly consists of tropical forests and is home to 2,254 species of higher plants including about 400 that are endemic. About 400 Red Listed Plants, 125 species of orchids and rare, endemic and threatened plants have been recorded from the reserve. It is also home to rare endimic animals include tiger, Asian Elephant, and Nilgiri Tahr. It is home to Kanikaran tribe, one of the oldest surviving ancient tribes in the world.