Friday, March 11, 2011

Genetic studies in rattan palms (Calamus sp.) using SSR markers

Natural variation is essential for conservation and utilization of plant genetic resources. Human interference on forests may cause depletion of natural genetic variation in the gene pool and even to genetic erosion of certain species. Rattans are one such species currently under crisis due to over-exploitation. They represent high value non-wood forest produce primarily used for making furniture, handicraft items and an important raw material in the cottage industry which contributes significantly in rural economy. There are about 1 lakh people in Kerala living out of this valuable resource. However, number of small scale industrial (SSI) units depending on these forest produce are decreasing drastically.  Besides, over exploitation of the rattans has exerted severe pressure on existing populations and sometimes resulted in loss of genetic diversity.
There are about 600 rattan species in 13 genera globally and 51 species in 4 genera in India, of which 75% are endemic and 40.5% threatened. The Western Ghats region of India is rich in species diversity of rattans with one genus, viz. Calamus having 27 species of which 21 are identified.
Presently associated (as Principal Investigator) to a research project on ‘Genetic studies on selected rattan palms (Calamus sp.) using microsatellite markers’.

Objectives of the project are to collect natural populations of the selected rattan palms, viz. C. brandisii, C. gamblei, C. nagabettai, C. thwaitesii, C. travancoricus and C. hookerianus and analyze genetic diversity, population structure and differentiation using SSR markers.

The project is being funded by Kerala Biotechnology Commission/KSCSTE.

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