Plant Diversity in Yunnan: Current Status and Future Directions

Yunnan, located in the southwest border of China, has a complex natural environment and breeds extremely rich biological resources, known as "Kingdom of Animals and Plants".

It is one of the 17 biodiversity hot spots in China and one of the 34 biodiversity hot spots in the world. Although the land area only accounts for 4.1% of China, it nearly harbors half of the total number of higher plant species of China (about 19000 species), which has always attracted the attention of researchers all over the world.

The United Groups for Plant Diversity and Evolution of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau (QTP) and Himalayas of Kunming Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences (KIB/CAS). The research group has been continuously focused plant diversity of Yunnan, based on the available data from latest released publications (such as Annual Report of Yunnan Nature Reserve 2016, the List of Biological Species of Yunnan Province 2016, the Red List of Biological Species of Yunnan Province 2017, Ecosystem List of Yunnan Province 2018, etc.) and online resources (such as NSII, KUN, CVH, etc.), analyzed the current situation of plant diversity in Yunnan Province.

They found that the northwest, south and southeast of Yunnan are the areas with the largest number of species, endemic species, specimens collected, new species published in recent 7 years and endangered species, while the southeast of Yunnan are the hot spot of plant species with extreme small population (PSESP).

In addition, combined with the data of nature reserve, result showed that although there are currently 160 protected areas in Yunnan, only 109 of the 129 county-level administrative units have protected areas. Moreover, the protected areas in the central and eastern Yunnan are low grade (County and Municipal Level), with small area and relatively fragmented distribution, which may be related to the frequent human activities in central and eastern Yunnan

On this basis, in order to better protect biodiversity resources and achieve sustainable development in the future, researchers put forward many suggestions for the future development of plant diversity in Yunnan, such as: government support is needed for scientific research, the need to investigate the plant resources of Yunnan (especially in the weakly investigated area), and support the qualified monographs, flora and the other biodiversity databases.

The related studies were carried out with "Plant diversity in Yunnan: Current status and future directions" recently published on Plant Diversity's Special Issue “Safeguarding Our Future by Protecting Biodiversity”.

The research is supported by the National Key R&D Project (2017YFC50505200), the Leading a Project of Chinese Academy of Sciences (XDA20050203), the Key Project of NSFC (U1802232) and the Second Comprehensive Scientific Investigation and Research on Qinghai Tibet Plateau (STEP, 2019QZKK0502).

Fig.1: County-level distribution of plant diversity in Yunnan. (A) Total species distribution patterns. (B) Endemic species distribution patterns. (C) Specimen distribution patterns. (D) New species distribution patterns (from 2013 to 2019). (E) Threatened species distribution patterns. (F) Distribution patterns of Plant Species with Extremely Small Populations (PSESP). (Image by KIB)

Fig.2. Type specimens and recent photographs of re-discovered ‘type-only’ species. (A) Hemilophia serpens (published in 1915). (B) Ranunculus melanogynus (published in 1960). (C) Carex polymascula (published in 1983). (D) Delphinium oxycentrum (published in 1937). (Image by KIB)



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