Ex situ cultivated flora of China

Hongwen HUANG
South China Botanical Garden CAS, Guangzhou, China

With approximately 33 000 higher plant species, half of which are endemic, China ranks as one of the top countries in the world as a centre of floristic significance. This tremendous plant diversity encompasses a huge number of species of bryophytes (c. 2 200 species), pteridophytes (c. 2 600 species), gymnosperms (c. 250 species), and angiosperms (over 30 000 species) that occur in China, accounting for 9.1 %, 22 %, 26.7 % and 10 % of the world total, respectively. The Chinese flora constitutes the living remnants of the early Miocene floras of the whole North Temperate regions and is the sources of numerous crops and of medicinal and horticultural plants. Furthermore, a long history of agricultural civilization and crop plant domestication in China has generated an enormous variety of cultivated germplasm of crops, vegetables, fruits and ornamentals. However, the plant diversity in China is increasingly vulnerable, with an estimated 4 000 to 5 000 plant species threatened or on the verge of extinction, thus attracting one of the highest priorities for global biodiversity conservation. Coming in the face of the current ecological crisis, China has increasingly recognized the importance of plant diversity to the country’s efforts to conserve and sustainably use plant diversity. Botanical garden conserved flora is quite extensive. A recent survey shows that the Chinese botanical gardens have maintained living collections of 23 340 species belonging to 3 633 genera, and 396 families in ex situ conservation. This presentation provides a comprehensive introduction to a long term plan of a recentinitiative of 'Ex situ Cultivated Flora of China', aiming three main goals: 1) Enhancement of taxonomic research with common-garden based living specimens. The morphological and biological data collecting from common garden should provide both adequate and accuratedescription and delimitation of difficult taxa when traditional taxonomy revision were made based on herbarium specimens; 2) Support of comparative biology and frontier plant science research, such as: withincreasing awareness of environmental and habitat changes in the overall background of climate changes on plant distributions in situ, the 'Ex situ Cultivated Flora' project should provide intensive plant biological information from different gardens across a wide spectrum of different latitudes, regional climates and habitats to related research on species adaptive evolution, plant migration and distribution shift and physiological or/and biochemical changes, etc.; 3) Strengthening germlasm discovery and sustainability of plant resources should enhance our current progress with medicinal plants, industrial bio-energy plants, landscaping and ornamental plants, new functional fruits and vegetables, environmental meliorating plants, etc. The project of 'Ex situ Cultivated Flora' is expected to be an important initiative of plant diversity research for sustainable economic and social development in China.

© 2012 Organizing Committee