Commiphora wightii 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Plantae Tracheophyta Magnoliopsida Sapindales Burseraceae

Scientific Name: Commiphora wightii (Arn.) Bhandari
Balsamodendrum wightii Arn.
Taxonomic Notes:

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Critically Endangered A2cd ver 3.1
Year Published: 2015
Date Assessed: 2014-07-16
Assessor(s): Ved, D., Saha, D., Ravikumar, K. & Haridasan, K.
Reviewer(s): Sayer, C.
Contributor(s): Gupta, A., Jain, A.K., Tripathi, A., Karnat, N., Ahmad, S., Shrivastava, J., Patra, K., Awasthi, A.K., Bhattacharya, P., Sahu, B., Chandravanshi, S., Kinhal, G., Oudhia, P., Sinha, V., Kumar, S., Sharma, B., Kasera, P., Bhatnagar, D., Singhi, M., Purohit, S., Mohammed, S., Anu, V., Sikarwar, R. & Boaz, A.
The wild occurrence of this species is limited mainly to the dry regions of Rajasthan and Gujrat States of India and the adjoining regions of Pakistan. Oleo-gum resin tapped from the stems of this species constitutes the well known Ayurvedic drug "Guggul" which is consumed in high volumes by the Indian herbal industries. Field observations over the last several decades have confirmed a severe decline in its wild population, as the shrubs tapped for oleo-gum resin die within two to three years. Over the past 84 years (three generation lengths) there has been a decline of more than 80% in the wild population as a result of habitat loss and degradation, coupled with unregulated harvesting and tapping of oleo-gum resin. This species is therefore assessed as Critically Endangered.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:The global distribution of Commiphora wightii is restricted to dry regions of western India and adjoining regions of Pakistan. In India the species is recorded mainly in Gujarat and Rajasthan and to a small extent in adjoining Madhya Pradesh and Maharastra.
Countries occurrence:
India (Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan); Pakistan
Additional data:
Estimated area of occupancy (AOO) - km2:2000-2200Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO):Yes
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO):NoEstimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2:20000-22000,21000
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO):YesExtreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO):No
Lower elevation limit (metres):100
Upper elevation limit (metres):900
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:The unsustainable exploitation of the gum has caused declines, particularly in the southern subpopulation. Subpopulations have been recorded from Jaisalmer, Barmer, Jodhpur, Jalore, Sirohi, Ajmer, Sikar, Churu, Jhunjhunu, Pali, Udaipur, Alwar (Sariska Tiger Reserve), Jaipur (Ramgarh, Jhalana area), Bhilwara and Rajsamand of Rajasthan. These subpopulations are highly disturbed and declining fast due to unsustainable collection of gum and subsequent death of the plants.
Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Continuing decline of mature individuals:Yes
Extreme fluctuations:NoPopulation severely fragmented:Unknown

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:Commiphora wightii prefers a distinct environmental gradient directed by the topography and salinity. It grows well in arid and semi-arid climates and is tolerant to poor soil. It prefers sandy, loamy, clayey and gravelly soil types and grows well in open canopy cover. The highest density (41.2 per ha) of the species has been recorded from loamy soil having pebbles as substratum, shallow soil depth and low salinity (Dixit and Rao 2000). The habitat of the species get low rainfall, which varies between 327 mm- 434 mm and the temperature ranges from 4.6 oC in winter to 45 oC in summer. The species has been recorded from undulating terrain, flat and hilly areas and dry river beds. This species shows high rates of evapo-transpiration due to its specific habitat characteristics such as high temperature, low humidity and high wind speed. This species is found to be associated with Acacia nilotica, Acacia senegal, Zizyphus nummu-laria, Euphoriba nivullia, Prosopis juliflora, Capparis decidua, Grewia tenax and Cassia auriculata. It has a generation length of 28 years.
Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat:Yes
Generation Length (years):28

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: The species has high use-value especially for medicinal purpose. It is used in the Ayurvedic system of medicine and decreases cholesterol synthesis in the liver. Each mature plant of C. wightii gives an average of about 250-500 g of Gugal gum during the extraction season, that is from November and December (Atal et al. 1975). The trade name is Guggulu. Oleo-gum, resin, stem and roots are traded.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The gum has high importance in international trade and it has been extracted at unsustainable rates with faulty extraction method causing declines in population. Unsustainable collection of multiple parts, high volume trade and loss of habitat are the major threats to this species. Grazing and browsing by sheep and goats seem to have some bearing on the abundance of the species. Collection of branches as fuel wood during the rainy season, scarcity or festive times further aggravates the status of population. This species demonstrates one of the most generic problems of conservation: the species was initially subjected to a very high degree of organized extermination, leaving a small population, which was exposed to continuing anthropogenic pressures, like grazing and browsing, which ultimately arrests new recruitment (Dixit and Rao 2000). Over-exploitation, a narrow extent of occurrence, small area of occupancy, severe fragmentation of populations, very low regeneration and invasion of alien species mean that C. wightii is facing a high extinction risk (Reddy et al. 2012).


Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: The Government of India has banned the export of the species. Biotic pressure should be regulated. Standard and better gum extraction technique could minimize the mortality rate of the species (Dixit and Rao 2000). Ex situ conservation and multiplication through micro and macro propagation technique would help to reduce the pressure on the wild population. Some attention and efforts have been brought into the system by identifying and documenting more than 100 forest areas (MPCAs). The wild presence of this species has been confirmed from the MPCA area of Barkochra in Rajasthan and it is expected that the MPCA program will promote in situ conservation of such species.

Soni (2010) identified a number of relevant activities within the study area under the theme ‘Guggal Bachao Abhiyan’ (Save Guggal Movement). These were conducted through the close co-operation of the village level communities, who depend on local biodiversity for their livelihoods in the Aravali Hills of Rajasthan (Soni 2010).

Citation: Ved, D., Saha, D., Ravikumar, K. & Haridasan, K. 2015. Commiphora wightii. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015: e.T31231A50131117. . Downloaded on 22 September 2018.
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