Aerial photo shows a view of Wuyishan National Park, east China's Fujian Province, Nov. 19, 2021. (Xinhua/Jiang Kehong)
China has announced that it will set up a national botanical garden system to strengthen the ex-situ conservation of endangered plant species.
How will the botanical garden system work? What role will it play in biodiversity protection? Here is what you need to know.
-- How will it work?
China is currently fostering a natural reserve system for the in-situ conservation of wildlife, while the national botanical garden system will be a key part of ex-situ conversation. Once completed, the two systems will work complementarily in increasing biodiversity.
According to the National Forestry and Grassland Administration, the botanical garden system will consist of botanical gardens of various scales spreading across the country.
It will provide an integrated conservation network for wild plants, and play a vital role in China's biodiversity protection efforts.
Given the profound regional variation in climate and vegetation in China, the administration will take into account multiple environmental factors and make scientific assessments before formulating the spatial layout of these botanical gardens.
National botanical gardens are expected to provide sci-tech support for ex-situ plant conservation, thereby reducing the extinction risks from natural disasters and extreme weather conditions, said Kong Hongzhi, a researcher with the Institute of Botany of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (IBCAS).
These gardens, meanwhile, play a role in sci-tech research, exhibitions and international exchanges, Kong said, adding they are also important carriers of national and regional cultures.
-- Why is it important?
China's plant diversity is among the highest in the world, providing habitats for over 36,000 types of higher plants.
However, not all plant species are under proper conservation within their natural habitats as a result of environmental damage, climate change and insufficient coverage of natural reserves, said Wen Xiangying, executive director of the Botanic Gardens Conservation International China program office.
When such situations emerge, ex-situ conversation will be an effective approach for emergency wildlife protection, Wen said.
To protect rare and endangered plant species, the country has so far built nearly 200 botanical gardens, where 60 percent of its native plant types are under ex-situ conservation, the core function of these gardens.
Ex-situ conservation enables wildlife conservationists to offer more targeted protection to critically endangered species, or species living outside the existing natural reserves, said Chen Jin, a researcher with the Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
Despite the number of existing botanical gardens, they have yet to fully implement ex-situ conservation due to the lack of unified management, Chen said, stressing this is why an integrated, comprehensive botanical garden system covering all climate zones and biodiversity hotspots is urgently needed.
-- What to expect?
Once the construction is completed, these national botanical gardens are expected to help the country gradually bring 85 percent of its native wild plant species and all key protected plant types under ex-situ conservation.
Earlier this month, the State Council approved a plan to develop the country's first such botanical garden.
To be situated in Beijing, the Chinese capital, the planned garden has a planned area of nearly 600 hectares and will focus on plant science research, the development of core technologies for plant resources utilization, and the breeding of rare and endangered plant species.
The construction is based on existing resources from the IBCAS and the Beijing Botanical Garden, which boast 15,000 types of protected plants, ranking first in the country. More gardens are also being planned in areas such as south China's Guangzhou. (Xinhua)
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