India is the location of many individual trees remarkable for their cultural, historical, or natural heritage values. However, no systematic national catalog of these trees is available, and therefore conservation and appreciation of this resource can only be done in piecemeal fashion. In this web site, we present the methods, results, and potential future applications of reasearch conducted to discover, categorize, visit, photograph, and study India’s tree heritage.
During almost three years of travel throughout India on a US-India Fulbright-Nehru Scholarship, the author has attempted to visit as many of India’s landmark, noteworthy, remarkable, interesting, giant, sacred, and weird trees as possible. A database organizing almost one thousand individual trees in relation to their species, location, and category is described, and the methods used to share and utilize this material are briefly presented.
The database, online via www.outreachecology.com/landmark is offered to readers, scholars, managers, and others as a foundation resource and as a platform for future initiatives to conserve India’s natural tree heritage.
Key words: Tree conservation, heritage documentation, environmental education, India, ecological geography, outreach ecology
Like no other country in the world, India is the custodian of countless treasures of living heritage: individual trees noted for their cultural, historical, or natural heritage value. These organisms combine natural and human values in such a way as to be perfect ambassadors for India’s environment and people. Furthermore, they provide ecosystem services such as wildlife habitat, shading, air filtration, and more. The Landmark Trees of India project is an environmental documentation, education and outreach project performed using cartography, photography, and travel skills. It was designed to produce resources that could be used for the management, appreciation, and discovery of individual trees throughout India.
Until this project, no attempt at a national catalog of these trees was known to exist, and therefore conservation and appreciation could only be done in subnational fashion. With the aid of modern tools, this catalog can be generated and distributed efficiently. Landmark Trees of India began this this documentation effort, and the results can be used as a foundation resource for conservation of India’s arboreal heritage. In this introduction, we discuss the methods, results, and future applications of the Landmark Trees project, conducted to discover, categorize, visit, photograph, and study India’s tree heritage. We present this paper to to inform, encourage, and aid the implementation of an Indian-scale Heritage Trees Conservation program.
Conservation of individual trees is a microcosm of conservation of the natural world. Individual trees, both living and dead, are keystone structures and prominent representatives of the natural forests of Earth. Landmark Trees of India was proposed and performed as an outreach ecology endeavour for nature conservation. The author recognizes that individual trees are important and irreplaceable living heritage. In common with environmental agencies, activists, and institutions, the author also asserts that the forests, landscapes, and wildlife of India and the world are supremely important and absolutely critical heritage; that the preservation of natural values overlaps with the values of arts and culture. It is beyond the scope of this article to detail some of the threats to the natural world, but it is universally recognized that environmental issues are of paramount significance. The interpretation of history and biology associated with these trees may offer a cost effective method of environmental education. Some of the success stories from India about preserving individual trees can be applied worldwide in preserving the natural landscapes and treasures of Earth.
By the end of the main fieldwork, 962 trees of an estimated 214 species had been visited, identified, photographed, and geotagged (Tables 1, 2). These trees, mapped in Figure 1 represent all of the mainland Indian states except and Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Tripura, Manipal, and Nagaland. Included so far are such superlative trees with the world’s largest canopy covers (The Great Banyan of Calcutta, Thimmamma Marrimanu, Kabir Vad), two of the world’s oldest historically documented living trees (The Bodhi Tree, in Gaya Bihar, and Shankaracharya’s Mulberry in Joshimath, Uttarakahand), and the fruit tree with the most grafted varieties on one stem (Kaleemullah’s Mango, near Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh).
Table 1: Number of trees included in Landmark Trees of India, organised by state and significance priority
Table 2: Numbers of trees included in Landmark Trees of India, organised by species taxon and state, for all species taxa with five or greater individuals