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China's plant resources need additional protections

Existing system of reserves is failing to conserve wild plants that could be valuable future sources of food and medicine

China needs to change where it sites its nature reserves and steer people out of remote rural villages toward cities to protect its valuable but threatened wild plant resources, according to an article published in the September issue of BioScience.

The article, by Weiguo Sang and Keping Ma of the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Institute of Botany and Jan C. Axmacher of University College, London, lists seven strategic steps that are needed to secure the future of China's wild plants, which the authors say are not effectively conserved by the country's existing protected areas. Many of those areas exist only on paper and are located far from Yunnan and Sichuan provinces, where rare species are found in the largest numbers, according to Sang and his coauthors.

Protected area managers in many cases currently lack basic data about which plant species are present on their reserves and even the exact area and extent of the reserves. Consequently, the effects of China's rapid economic development, the related spread of invasive species, and the growth of tourism could drive to extinction species that could be sources of future crops and medicine.

Apart from creating well-enforced reserves in appropriate areas and encouraging the rural poor, who often overexploit plant resources, to move into cities, China should develop accurate data on threats to its plant species, develop specific management and monitoring plans for the most threatened, and encourage sustainable eco-tourism that does not damage plants, the BioScience authors argue. The country should also consider temporary protection of very rare species in botanical gardens and expand funding and training for traditional taxonomy, as well as experimental ecosystem laboratories and management.

After noon EDT on 7 September and for the remainder of the month, the full text of the article will be available for free download through the copy of this Press Release available at

BioScience, published monthly, is the journal of the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS). BioScience publishes commentary and peer-reviewed articles covering a wide range of biological fields, with a focus on "Organisms from Molecules to the Environment." The journal has been published since 1964. AIBS is an umbrella organization for professional scientific societies and organizations that are involved with biology. It represents some 200 member societies and organizations with a combined membership of about 250,000.

The complete list of peer-reviewed articles in the September 2011 issue of BioScience is as follows:

Modeling Forest Self-assembly Dynamics Using Allometric and Physical First Principles.

Sean T. Hammond and Karl J. Niklas

Wetlands as Settings for Human Health: Incorporating Ecosystem Services and Health Impact Assessment into Water Resource Management.

Pierre Horwitz and C. Max Finlayson

Technology on the Move: Recent and Forthcoming Innovations for Tracking Migratory Birds.

Eli S. Bridge, Kasper Thorup, Melissa S. Bowlin, Phillip B. Chilson, Robert H. Diehl, René W. Fléron, Phillip Hartl, Roland Kays, Jeffrey F. Kelly, W. Douglas Robinson, and Martin Wikelski

Postdoctoral Training Aligned with the Professoriate.
Brian Rybarczyk, Leslie Lerea, P. Kay Lund, Dawayne Whittington, and Linda Dykstra
Experiences of Ethnobotanists with Publication: A First Approach.
Ulysses P. Albuquerque, Marcelo A. Ramos, and Maria F. T. Medeiros
Beyond Reserves and Corridors: Policy Solutions to Facilitate the Movement of Plants and Animals in a Changing Climate.

John Kostyack, Joshua J. Lawler, Dale D. Goble, Julian D. Olden, and J. Michael Scott

Securing a Future for China's Wild Plant Resources.
Weiguo Sang, Keping Ma, and Jan C. Axmacher

Tim Beardsley | EurekAlert!
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