1.1 Background of the Study
Indigenous flora or plants are those plants originated in a given geographical area without human involvement. By contrast, non- indigenous plants (also called alien or exotic plants) are those introduced into a given geographical area by human. Indigenous plants include all mosses, ferns to wild herbs, climbers (woody and herbaceous types) and trees. (Tallamy, 2007).
According to Agbogidi and Ofuokwu (2007), the major biotic components of the environment are forests and other vegetation, and the wise management of the environment depends on a better understanding of its components. Land areas once identified as forest lands have been decreasing steadily, due to industrial and social developments which compete for the same piece of land on which forest stands exist. Economic activities and the rate of population growth have increased to a point where the impact of man on the environment can no longer be ignored (Aimufia, 2002). Over exploitation, exploration, other conversion of vegetation and other land uses normally result in the elimination of biodiversity as well as an extinction of many valuable indigenous plant species (Agbogidi, 2002; Iroko et al., 2008).
Deforestation for various reasons is equally evident for the disappearance of many economically valued trees and shrubs species across Nigeria (Adeyoju 2001, Adeyemi and Jegeda, 2002; Omotoyinbo and Kayode, 2008). Deforestation has global consequences, it is primarily due to the influence of carbon exchange in the vegetation which in the dry zone averages about 30tons per hectare, and declines when the vegetation is depleted (Alamu, 2011). Importance of vegetation to man cannot be over- emphasized. Plants are generally green (in traffic vocabulary, green means go ahead). With plants, life goes on, life becomes more robust and meaningful. The environment according to Agbogidi and Ofuokwu (2007) is the closest neighbour of man. Man depends directly and indirectly on the environment for almost everything relating to growth and survival on planet earth. Agbogidi and Eshegbeyi (2008) noted that plant products play vital roles in human life from the cradle to the grave (Aimufia, 2002).
Indigenous floras have enormous uses among rural communities in Nigeria, such as sources of foods like fruits, nuts, folders, fibres, fertilizers, medicinal extracts, construction materials, cosmetics and culture products, natural dyes, tannins, gums and other exudates. Other benefit includes essential oils, spices, edible oils, cellulose product and chemicals. These products are derived from a variety of plant sources (palms, grasses, herbs, shrubs, and trees and other living component of the ecosystem (Akanni, 2013).
Millions of people especially those living in rural areas in developing countries including Nigeria, collect these products daily and sell as means of livelihood (Audal, 2006; Sale, 2006; Shomkegh et.al. 2008.) A large proportion of rural populations living near forest earn their livelihood from extraction, collection and sale of indigenous flora, thereby improving their quality of lives and standard of living (Agbogidi and Okonta 2003). Agbogidi (2010) listed use of indigenous flora to include food, or food addictives (nuts), plant materials (fibre, creepers and flower) plant derivatives (raffia) bamboo rattan, cork and essential oils. A large number of the people living in developing countries use wild plants to meet some of their health and nutrition needs.
Indigenous flora products contribute highly to the income and welfare of households. These among others include gathering, collection and sale of leaves and medicinal herbs, food vending, and sale of fuel wood. Others include food processing, crafts and basket weaving also generate income to those engaged in them (Odebode, 2003). Aliyu (2006) stated that reasonable numbers of medicinal plant species are threatened by habitat loss following heightened deforestation.
Although there is a great incompatibility between urbanization/industrialization, agriculture and conservation developmental activities should be environmentally friendly to allow for a sustained productivity (Agbogidi and Okonta,2009).Okonkwo et al., (2002) reported that serious anthropogenic activities of man constitute great environmental hazards. Impact of certain projects on the vegetation in the tropics including Nigeria is widespread. For example, the establishment of Colleges of Education, Polytechnics and Universities in Nigeria and other parts of the tropics has led to the removal and destruction of various economic vegetation, the uses of some are yet to be discovered.
The link between the environment and human survival call for great consideration before any large-scale projects are established to minimize its impact on plant communities and their environment.
1.2 Justification for the Study
At the College of Education Campuses in Agbor, there is rapid removal of vegetation due to provision of lecture halls, laboratories, football field and other pitches for sports. College of Education campuses have relatively small acreage and are bordered by developed land. On the college campuses, natural areas exist that act as a refuge for native species, both plants and animals. Little information is known about the species composition or distribution of species within these areas. The close proximity of these lands to development and disturbance raised the potential for this study. This project is justified by trying to provide exhaustive and different plant species found on the campuses of College of Education, Agbor.
Since the first earth summit in Rio de Janeiro, there has been a sustained global awareness of the importance of the superfluity of biodiversity and natural resources from tropical forest for several purposes (Durugbo et al; 2012). The world’s tropical rainforest are especially rich in biodiversity but there is rapid depletion of these natural resources in Nigeria and possibly worldwide (Ayodele, 2005). These pressures which arise from degradation, unsustainable arable land use, urbanization and industrialization are taking their toll as well (Obute and Osuji, 2002). There is need to preserve genetic diversity including plant resources of known and unknown economic importance which will guarantee the availability of all potential for use in the benefit of our children and grand children (Olowokudejo, 1987). All over the world studies of vegetation of different areas have been undertaken to document the flora, especially, in these days of remarkable genetic losses due to over exploitation of forest and its products (Oren et al; 2007; Uyar et al, 2007; Betti and Lejoly; 2009). Apart from this, some of these researchers had carried out their studies to ascertain the different medicinal plants in their regions. Also, scientific research is discovering new uses for indigenous flora in ways that relieve both human suffering and environmental destruction (Wilson, 1988). While developmental activities continue on the College campuses, it will be a sound scientific judgment to protect indigenous flora for posterity. This would ensure that all the indigenous plants of the study area will not be lost to developmental projects embarked upon by the college. Taxonomic surveys have been helpful in documenting the species that had one time or the other existed in different locations within the country (Soladoye et al, 2005, 2013, Anoliefo et al., 2006) and the value of any biodiversity analysis and the adequacy of conservation measures depend on the quality of basic data as put by Valdecasas and Camacho (2003). Similar studies have been used to document medicinal plants reported to be valuable in the traditional management of ailments in Nigeria and other West Africa Countries (Bhat et al., 1990, Asase et al., 2005, Soladoye et al., 2014).
Bodeker (1997) also reported that the reduction in the availability of plants which were supposed to be the first and the last resort by the populace need to be protected for use by future generations. The same cautions should apply to the plants found on the College of Education Campuses in Agbor, Delta State.
1.3 Objectives of the Study
The overall objective of the study is to document the indigenous flora within College of Education campuses, Agbor, Delta state.
The specific aims of the project are to:
- Document the plants which are indigenous on College of Education Campuses, Agbor, Delta State.
- Provide a basis for comparison in future, in the event of a shift in speciation due to human activities or climate change.