Herbarium to showcase Singanallur lake’s rich biological diversity

COIMBATORE: Scientists at the Institute of Forest Genetics and Tree Breeding (IFGTB) here are setting up a that will have flora found in and around the . It will be the first herbarium containing specimens from an urban wetland in .
The city corporation, along with the Centre for Urban Conservation and Education (CUBE), which is working on conserving Singanallur lake, had brought in IFGTB to set up the herbarium. “While the lakes in the city are rich in biological diversity, the extent of flora present was not known. This exercise helps us create an extensive document of plant diversity in the zone,” principal investigator of the project Kunhikannan told TOI.

The scientists had found about 300 species of flora at the lake habitat and are confident of finding at least another 100 species in a couple of months. “A herbarium will also become a reference for further biodiversity studies over the next 100 years,” said Joseph Reginald, a member of CUBE. The project was commissioned after the lake was declared a biodiversity conservation zone.

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The Rs 2.48lakh project that uses funds from the corporate social responsibility activities of an organization, had begun last October. “The principal investigator and a junior research fellow working on the project visit the lake bunds once or twice a month to collect specimens. The specimens are identified and dipped in a solution of ethanol and mercury chloride. We then dry it till the moisture from the specimen is sucked out. The two absorbable sheets covering the specimen must be changed every day. The drying and preserving process takes a week,” said Kunhikannan. “The dried and preserved specimen is then stuck with Fevicol on herbarium sheets, which are 16x11cm handmade paper bought from Pune.”

The scientists have so far found in-depth species of climbers, weeds, herbs, shrubs and trees in and around the lake. “We have also found the region to be rich in medicinal plants like calotropis, datura, Boerhavia diffusa and Oxystelma esculentum,” said Kunhikannan. “The area is also rich in ornamental plants like Lagasca mollis, Lippia alba and Turnera ulmifolia.”

Every piece of flora present in and around the lake has a role in preserving its biodiversity, said Kunhikannan. “For example, grass gives cover to the tortoises in the lake. Birds like water hen nest on trees and shrubs. Fruit trees provide food for the birds,” the scientist further.

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