Establishment of Western Himalayan Temperate Arboretum:
An Arboretum is one of the methods favored for ex-situ conservation of species. Arboreta are scientifically laid out collection of arboreal plant species like trees, shrubs and woody lianas, representing different climatic and phyto-geographic regions. These serve various purposes such as germplasm collection, horticultural studies and means of ex-situ plant conservation. Well organized and aesthetically designed arboreta also play an important role in generating awareness about the plant world and promoting conservation education among the society. Ex- situ conservation and mass propagation of rare species at the botanical garden are complimentary to in-situ conservation.
The arboretum at Van Vihar will also have multifarious usage and the major ones shall include research, education, general environment awareness and ecotourism. It will also be visited for recreational activity thereby supporting interaction between society and biodiversity. Once established, the arboretum would be the first ex-situ plant conservation facility in the region, and one of the few conservatories – type gardens in the North Western Himalaya. It will provide a homeport, research and propagation facility for the amateur as well a professional gardening community in the region.
The Arboretum will also contribute to raise awareness among policy makers on the wealth of agro-biodiversity with regard to underutilized or neglected species and encourage thus greater attention on this group of species. Other uses, such as landscaping, and role of the species in maintaining cultural and artistic values of communities will be also addressed.
Most of the plant species introduced to the arboretum would be economically important and shall include timber yielding plants, plants yielding edible fruits, nuts, spices, fibre, plants of medicinal value, ornamental value etc. This unique collection of arboreal flora will be of great help in educating the people, particularly the youth, about the need for preserving one of our most important national assets – the ‘Biodiversity of Temperate Himalayas.’
The Arboretum assembled its rich collection of plants through numerous plant explorations of ongoing research projects of the institute, and this work continues to play a major role in shaping and stewarding the collection to fulfill its mission of research, conservation, and education. Collecting plant material from wild populations ensures its value for scientific study, whether as an accessioned plant for the living collection at the arboreta, a pressed specimen for the herbarium, or as live germplasm for research projects. This activity in itself supports the ex situ conservation of native plants in the face of habitat loss and global change.Infrastructure Development:
Efforts were initiated to enhance landscape infrastructure, highlight the value of its living collection through signage, improve growing conditions with regular manure and weeding, and to enhance the visitor experience by developing thematic trails. Examples are the renovation of the guard hut to a field office, construction of two gazebos, one pergola and an amphitheatre for interaction with visitors, especially school children.
From school children to university students, researchers, professionals and members of the local community who participate in programs for personal and professional development, the arboretum provides a lifetime of learning about plants and the natural habitat. Outreach efforts for education currently include children’s awareness programs, lectures, spot painting/slogan competitions and initiatives for institutional visitor education. Now with the addition of an amphitheatre, the arboretum is positioned to enhance its contribution via interactive lecture/talk sessions and short theatricals of children to convey forward the new arising issues pertaining to the conservation of biodiversity.
Besides learning levels at the school, these experiences help children exercise reasoning skills and form logical connections between biodiversity/environment and everyday activities. Outdoor classrooms, not only helps the students learn quickly, it also instills a value for sharing knowledge that lies at the heart of the arboretum’s goal.
PCCF, Wildlife (Himachal Pradesh State Forest Department)
Dr. V.P. Tewari (Director, HFRI);
Curators & Education/Extension:
Dr. Vaneet Jishtu (Scientist Incharge, WHTA); email@example.com