New plant species found in Western Ghats in Maharashtra

New plant species found in Western Ghats in Maharashtra

Echinops sahyadricus, the new species of plant, found in the northern Western Ghats. Special arrangement

A team of conservationists from the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), Sathaye College, and the University of Camerino has discovered a new species of plant, Echinops sahyadricus, in the northern Western Ghats.

A paper on the discovery has been published in the international journal 'Nordic Journal of Botany'.

The team found the species during a field survey as part of the project 'Assessing the Endemic Biodiversity of the High Elevational Plateaus of Northern Western Ghats', which mainly focuses on the endemic biodiversity of the plateaus of the northern Western Ghats.

Harshal Bhosale, BNHS Conservation Officer, led the project, and the team has Sushant More as the lead botanist from Sathaye College, Mumbai, and researcher Fabio Conti from the University of Camerino, Italy. Shripad Halbe of the Brihad Bharatiya Samaj, Mumbai, funded the project.

So far, the team has conducted multiple expeditions in Gujarat, Maharashtra and Karnataka as part of the project fieldwork. 

The team came across the population of this species in August 2019, and a close examination revealed that it was new and endemic to the northern Western Ghats.

"Echinops sahyadricus is distributed in the northern Western Ghats from Salher (Nashik district) in the north to Kolhapur in the south. It is endemic to the state of Maharashtra and the species grows on open mountain slopes," a press statement said.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) (2019), Echinops sahyadricus should be categorised as 'Least Concern' (LC) for now. The population is not declining at present, and there are no indications of threats or extreme fluctuations.

However, future development projects like road widening in the ghats and repairs around the forts could affect the species.