Central National Herbarium, Botanical Survey of India, Howrah.
The Andaman and Nicobar Islands are the Union Territory and the largest archipelago system in the Bay
of Bengal, consisting of 306 islands and 206 rocks and rock outcrops (islets) and situated between 6°45'–
13°41' N and 92°12'–93°57' E, covering 8,249 km
geographical area with a coastline of 1,962 km. The
fragments of a continental land mass is in contrast to the Nicobar Islands (part of Sundaland Biodiversity
Hotspot), which were formed due to volcanic activity. These are lying in North-South direction and
simulating an arc stretching over a length of about 912 km and maximum width of 57 km.
The Andaman group of islands is having a total area of 6,408 km
, comprising a total length of 467 km
and width of 52 km, while Nicobar group of Islands are having an area of 1,841 km
(length 259 km and
by sea 1190 km and by air 1330 km and Kolkata 1255 km by sea and 1303 km by air). The nearest
landmass in the north is Myanmar, roughly 280 km north of Landfall Island – the northern most Island in the
Andaman Group. The closest landmass to the Great Nicobar Island is Sumatra, about 145 km south. The
Saddle Peak (about 720 m) and Mt. Thullier (about 670 m) are the only two highest peaks in the
Andaman and the Nicobar group of Islands, respectively.
There are six aboriginal groups, viz. Great Andamanese, Onges, Jarawas, Sentinelese, Nicobarese and
while the last two are of Mongoloid race and live in Nicobar Islands. These aboriginal people widely use
plants in day to day sustenance.
As these Islands are situated in the equatorial belt and are exposed to marine impacts having warm and
humid tropical climate with the temperature ranging between 18°C and 35°C. The islands receive heavy
rainfall from both Southwest and Northeast monsoons, the former is from May to September and the latter
is from October to December with the average annual rainfall ranging from 300 to 3500 mm. Cyclonic
winds accompanied by thunder and lightning are very frequent here. During January to March a fairly dry
weather with scanty rainfall occurs. The mean relative humidity is rather high and usually remains between
66 and 85% throughout the year.
VEGETATION AND PLANT DIVERSITY OF ANDAMAN AND NICOBAR ISALNDS
Kurz (1870) published a “Report on the vegetation of the Andaman Islands”, in which he outlined the
various vegetation types, influence of the season upon the vegetation and peculiarities of flora of the
Andaman Islands. According to Champion & Seth (1963), the vegetation of union territory may be broadly
classified into (i) Beach forests, (ii) Mangrove forests, (iii) Wet evergreen forests, (iv) Semi-evergreen
forests, (v) Moist deciduous forests and (vi) Grasslands. Some of the predominant components of these
forests are Baccaurea spp., Brueguirea spp., Calamus spp., Canarium spp., Ceriopsis spp., Clerodendron
spp., Dipterocarpus spp., Leea spp., Mallotus spp., Mangifera spp., Rhizophora spp. and Thuarea
Parkinson (1923) published “A forest flora of the Andaman Islands” providing a taxonomic account of the
checklists of plants of Andaman and Nicobar Islands were published by many (Vasudeva Rao, 1986;
Lakshminarasimhan & Rao, 1996; Mathew, 1998; Dagar & Singh, 1999). Recently, Pandey & Diwakar
(2008) published an integrated check-list flora of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, which reports 2654,
including 228 infraspecific taxa under 1083 genera in 237 families belonging to 4 different plant groups,
namely bryophytes, pteridophytes, gymnosperms and angiosperms. However, a recent analysis reveals
that the Andaman and Nicobar Islands harbours a total of 2662 plant taxa, comprising 2519 species, 33
subspecies, 104 varieties and 6 forma under 1110 genera in 238 families belonging to bryophytes,
species and 3 varieties, under 32 genera and 16 families (Lal, 2005). Pteridophytes are consisting of 129
species, 1 subspecies and 9 varieties under 62 genera belonging to 38 families (Dixit & Sinha, 2001).
Gymnosperms are represented by 7 species and 2 varieties under 4 genera and 3 families. Besides, the
Islands also harbour 383 species of lichens under 84 genera and 30 families, and algae are represented
by 182 species belonging to 84 genera in 32 families.
Angiosperms are the predominant plant group in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands; they are represented
92% of entire flora of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Poaceae (194 taxa), Orchidaceae (153 taxa),
Rubiaceae (143 taxa), Euphorbiaceae (135 taxa), Fabaceae s.str. (110 taxa), Cyperaceae (106 taxa),
Annonaceae (64 taxa), Moraceae (63 taxa), Asteraceae (49 taxa) and Arecaceae (46 taxa) are the top
ten dominant families.
DIVERSITY OF ENDEMIC AND THREATENED PLANTS
Only 3 genera, namely Nicobariodendron, Pseudodiplospora and Sphyranthera and about 315 species
belonging to 187 genera and 74 families are endemic to the union territory,
constituting about 10% of the
The flora of Andaman and Nicobar Islands also consists of considerable number of threatened taxa. About
islands (Singh & al., 2014). Dendrobium tenuicaule, Eulophia nicobarica, Ginalloa andamanica,
endangered taxa found in the Islands. Cryptocarya ferrea var. ferrarsi, Garcinia cadelliana, Garcinia
CITES. Amorphophallus longistylus, Amorphophallus muelleri, Artabotrys nicobarianus, Bentinckia
The islands also harbour a number of economically important plant species. There are about 300 non-
indigenous or cultivated species. Some of them are Abrus precatorius, Aristolochia tagala, Barringtonia
asiatica, Barringtonia racemosa, Bruguiera gymnorrhiza, Colubrina asiatica, Cordia grandis,
Duabanga grandiflora, Flagellaria indica, Garuga pinnata, Horsfieldia glabra, Leea grandifolia,
Manilkara littoralis, Morinda citrifolia, Myristica andamanica, Orophea katschallica, Psychotria
andamanica, Scaevola taccada, Xanthophyllum andamanicum, Ximenia americana and Zingiber
zerumbet. The predominant timber-yielding tree species in the islands are Pterocarpus dalbergioides,
Dipterocarpus griffithii, Diospyros marmorata, Lagerstroemia hypoleuca, Terminalia bialata and
THREATS TO THE PLANT DIVERSITY AND CONSERVATION STRATEGIES
Natural disasters and anthropogenic activities are the two major threats, which pose considerable damage
to the plant diversity of Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Tsunami, cyclones and forest fire are the natural
disasters that cause severe destruction and loss of natural habitats in the islands. Conversion of forest
areas into agricultural fields and residential areas, over-exploitation of biological resources and
introduction of alien species are the major anthropogenic activities that cause destruction and
fragmentation of natural habitats. Climate change will also pose potential impact on the biodiversity of
faunal diversity of the islands. There are 9 National Parks and 96 Wildlife Sanctuaries in in Andaman and
Nicobar Islands (ENVIS-WII, 2012). National Parks occupy an area of 1153.94 km
Islands and two in Nicobar Islands. Wildlife Sanctuaries occupy an area of 389.39 km
, which cover
Nicobar is the only Biosphere Reserve in the Islands that covers an area of about 885 km
. These Protected
biodiversity of these islands.
The Dhanikhari Experimental Garden-cum-Arboretum maintained by the Andaman and Nicobar Regional
species of Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Many in situ and ex situ conservation efforts have been
undertaken in the Dhannikhari Experimental Garden cum Arboretum to conserve the endemic and
threatened plant genetic diversity of Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
The ENVIS Centre on Floral Diversity, Botanical Survey of India has published the “Bibliography and
a comprehensive compilation of 815 references with abstract published on flora, forestry, economic and
ethnobotany of these islands, which would help those who are interested in biodiversity and conservation.
Singh Mahendra Pal Singh, Dehra Dun.
Singh, Dehra Dun.
1993) from Andaman and Nicobar Islands. J. Econ. Taxon. Bot. 20: 175–185.
Botanical Survey of India, Howrah.
Nicobar Islands: A conservation perspective. In: Kumar, P. (ed.), Island Biodiversity. Uttar Pradesh