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Ex-situ conservation helps China make progress in plant protection


The National Botanical Garden, June 10, 2022, Beijing, China. /CFP
The National Botanical Garden, June 10, 2022, Beijing, China. /CFP

The National Botanical Garden, June 10, 2022, Beijing, China. /CFP

The National Botanical Garden was officially unveiled in Beijing on April 18, 2022. With a total area of nearly 600 hectares, the National Botanical Garden was expanded from the Institute of Botany of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (South Garden) and the Beijing Botanical Garden (North Garden).

Covering 80 percent of the families and 50 percent of the genuses of China's plants, they make up to 10 percent of the world's plant species.

The garden has a collection of more than 30,000 species of native plants from the northern areas of China, representative plants from the north temperate zone, and from different geographical divisions of the world.

Most of the species are rare and endangered plants, as well as 5 million representative plant specimens from the five continents.

Ex-situ conservation

To protect the plant diversity of China, ex-situ conservation is considered a major task.

Ex-situ conservation refers to relocating endangered, endemic species or species of notable economic value from their origin to professional institutions like botanical gardens for protection, including the establishment of germplasm resource banks to preserve plant seeds, tissues and organs, said Ye Jianfei, senior engineer of the Institute of Botany under Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).

As a top priority of the national botanical garden, ex-situ conservation is not just about removing plants from their natural habitat and placing them in a new location. "More importantly, it is about conducting comprehensive scientific research on endangered species," said Dr Wang Kang, curator of the plant museum at the national botanical garden.

After a series of human interventions to ensure the number and genetic diversity of such species, they will be reintroduced back into the wild if conditions allow for promoting the recovery of wild species, Wang added.

Big data

Wu Hui, executive director of the Plant Science Data Center of the CAS, said that the National Botanical Garden has built a big data visualization system.

"We established a data distribution grid of 10 km. On the one hand, we can plan the future nature reserve system, and on the other hand, we can provide precise guidance on how to collect and preserve these key wild protected plants," Wu said.

Liang Zhenchang, director of the National Botanical Garden Management Committee, said that over the past year the National Botanical Garden has carried out systematic research work and published a series of high-level papers in international journals, providing theoretical support for plant diversity protection.

"By 2027, all levels of Chinese botanical gardens will be comprehensively improved, and ex-situ conservation and scientific research will be perfected," said He Ran, director of the National Botanical Garden Management Committee.

(With input from Xinhua)

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