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China: a rich flora needed of urgent conservation

AuthorsLópez-Pujol, Jordi CSIC ORCID ; Zhao, A-Man
Mainland China
Hong Kong
Issue Date2004
PublisherUniversidad Autónoma de Barcelona
CitationOrsis : Organismes i sistemes 19, 49-89 (2004)
Abstract[EN] China is one of the richest countries in plant biodiversity in the world. Besides to a rich flora, which contains about 33 000 vascular plants (being 30 000 of these angiosperms, 250 gymnosperms, and 2 600 pteridophytes), there is a extraordinary ecosystem diversity. In addition, China also contains a large pool of both wild and cultivated germplasm; one of the eight original centers of crop plants in the world was located there. China is also considered one of the main centers of origin and diversification for seed plants on Earth, and it is specially profuse in phylogenetically primitive taxa and/or paleoendemics due to the glaciation refuge role played by this area in the Quaternary. The collision of Indian subcontinent enriched significantly the Chinese flora and produced the formation of many neoendemisms. However, the distribution of the flora is uneven, and some local floristic hotspots can be found across China, such as Yunnan, Sichuan and Taiwan. Unfortunately, threats to this biodiversity are huge and have increased substantially in the last 50 years. The combined effects of habitat destruction and/or fragmentation, environmental contamination, overexploitation of natural resources and, in lower extent, introduction of exotic species, have produced an irremediable damage to plant biodiversity; furthermore, the economic and population growth have contributed to this deterioration. Currently it is considered that up to 5 000 species of flora are endangered in China, and some taxa have already become extinct. Although government authorities have done some efforts in order to preserve biodiversity in recent years, there is still a lot of work to do. China has established a extense network of nature reserves and protected areas, covering more than 16% of the total land area; nevertheless, lack of budget and staff are common trends in their management. Ex situ conservation is still also deficient, primarily due to botanical gardens are not representative of the several local floras and they often have not adequate sizes and amount of species. The lack of an efficient environmental legislation and education are also root causes which enhance the loss of Chinese plant biodiversity.
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