The rainforests remain a major resource of medicinal genetic resources, some of which may yield drugs to treat numerous diseases or symptoms. Approxi-

FIGURE 9.32 Pink plumea (Polygonum bistorta), a member of the buckwheat family, Polygonaceae, along the Denali highway, Alaska. (Copyright Ken Graham/Ken Graham Agency.)

mately 15% of angiosperm species have been examined for their medicinal potential, many of these from temperate and subtropical regions. The majority of tropical plants of the rainforests, which represent about 40% of all angiosperm species, have yet to be studied. Ironically, the most diverse rainforests, those of Latin America, have been least studied, by both aborigines and modern scientists. The rainforests possess an incredible potential for supplying botanical resources and medicinal and nutritional benefits. In the process of realizing this potential, one must adequately address conservation, preservation, sustainable harvesting, socioeconomic development, and indigenous culture issues, to name a few.

Due to the mass extinction process, as a result of rainforest destruction, it is predicted that a large number of plant species will become extinct within the next decade or so. Along with this extinction is the loss for their potential and the alteration of habitat and indigenous cultures. Currently, measures are being taken in these areas, but more needs to be done and at an accelerated rate.

FIGURE 9.33 Blooming lingonberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea) and spruce (Picea sp.) cones in Denali National Park, Alaska. (Copyright Kim Heacox/Ken Graham Agency.)

Education and support of development and conservation programs are stepping stones to the protection and use of these botanical resources.

Life in a local site struck down by a passing storm springs back quickly because enough diversity exists. The assembly of life that took a billion years to evolve has eaten the storms — folded them into its genes — and created the world that created us.

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