9.4.1 Involvement of Botanical Gardens and Arboreta
According to The New York Botanical Garden, of approximately 250,000 species of flowering plants, it is estimated that some 60,000 of these may become extinct by the year 2050, and more than 19,000 species of plants are considered to be threatened or endangered around the world. More than 2000 species of plants native to the U.S. are threatened or endangered, with as many as 700 species becoming extinct in the next 10 years.15 The New York Botanical Garden currently grows 10 species of plants on the Federal Endangered Species List. They are striving to preserve rare and endangered plants and participate with other institutions in doing this. The Garden is a Participating Institution in the Center for Plant Conservation (CPC), serving as a rescue center for six native plant species that are imminently threatened, which form part of the National Collection of Endangered Plants, and are grown and studied to be conserved.15 The CPC is located at the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis, MO. This Center is dedicated to conserving rare plants native to the U.S. in an integrated plant conservation context through a collaborative program of ex situ plant conservation, research, and education. It is made up of a consortium of 25 botanical gardens and arboreta.16 A national survey by the CPC in 1988 found that over three-quarters of the endangered flora of the U.S. is in six areas; Hawaii, California, Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. It has designated these areas as conservation priority regions. The CPC Priority Regions Program addresses the need for conservation through programs of land conservation, management, offsite collection in seed banks, botanical gardens and other institutions, research, and site surveys.16 The National Collection of Endangered Plants contains seeds, cuttings, and whole plants of 496 rare plant species native to the U.S. The collection is stored at 25 gardens and arboreta that form part of the CPC.
The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, United Kingdom support six ex situ and in situ conservation projects. The activities range from acting as the UK Scientific Authority for Plants for CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), cooperating in the recovery and reintroduction of endangered species, and in production of management plans for sustainable development and protected areas.17
The Wrigley Memorial and Botanical Gardens at Catalina Island, CA is still another example. The Garden places its emphasis on California island endemic plants. Many of these plants are extremely rare, with some listed on the Endangered Species List.
The main purpose of environmental education is to instill an understanding and appreciation of natural resources and to develop support for preserving these resources. It promotes awareness of human impact on the environment, builds knowledge and skills needed in ascertaining environmental issues, and the ability to apply that knowledge and skills in issue remediation. There are implications here that are associated with loss of habitats, extinction of species, and their possible biomedical uses. We come to understand that indigenous inhabitants are as endangered as the forest in which they live. Tropical rainforests are considered to be nonrenewable old growth forests.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has created an environmental education office to advance and support national education efforts to develop an environmentally conscious and responsible public, and to inspire a sense of personal responsibility for the care of the environment. It awards nearly 250 grants annually worth approximately $3 million as seed money to support environmental education projects.
Among the newly formed conservation and education organizations is the not-for-profit Amazon Center for Environmental Education and Research (ACEER) Foundation with which Dr. James Duke has been associated since its inception. Since 1991, ACEER has been a dynamic force for rainforest conservation. It provides students, teachers, citizen naturalists, and researchers from around the world an opportunity to learn about the need to conserve the magnificent biodiversity and cultural richness of Amazonia (see Figures 9.2 to 9.10). ACEER operates an education center in the Peruvian Amazon, north of the city of Iquitos, that is visited by more than 2000 individuals per year; the Dr. Alwyn H. Gentry Laboratory is attached to the center and is the focal point for Amazonian research at the ACEER. A major feature of ACEER's facilities is the Canopy Walkway system, the only one of its kind
in South America. It allows researchers and visitors to ascend to the very top of the rainforest canopy for observation and study. In 1996, due to the efforts of ACEER Board member Dr. Jim Duke, the ACEER created the ReNuPeRu Ethnobotanical Garden, a 6-ha site showcasing more than 200 economically important plants growing in their native habitat. The curator for the Garden is Don Antonio Montero Pisco, a local shaman. Ultimately, the experience gained at the Garden will be transferred to local villages to promote the
sustainable economic development and use of ethnobotanicals by the peoples of Amazonia (see Figures 9.11 to 9.24). As a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, ACEER offers a wide range of education and research programs. In the area of education annual credit and noncredit bearing workshops on rainforest ecology, environmental education, pharmacy from the rainforest, and shamanic healing techniques and medicines are offered. The ACEER also hosts student interns, master's, doctoral and postdoctoral researchers from major universities
around the world. An Adopt-a-School program fosters cultural exchanges between American and rural Amazonian schools while providing critical educational supplies for the Peruvian schools. A Peruvian Teachers Training workshop enhances environmental education curriculum development throughout Amazonia, while a Peruvian Scientists Training workshop instructs natural resources' scientists on how to use satellite technology and sophisticated geographic information system computer systems to study ecosystems. An ACEER
research project recently mapped the spatial distribution of 15 native medicinal plant habitats. Other research has evaluated a wide range of topics including
primate biodiversity, the taxonomy of bromeliads, parental behavior in a previously undescribed species of a frog, the ecology of bats, water quality studies of
lake and river systems, and more. Through the VINES (Volunteers in Environ-
mental Service) program, volunteers from around the world may participate in ACEER education and research programs at its center in the rainforest. Another interesting educational feature is the close linkage of the not-for-profit ACEER
with International Expeditions (I.E.), a closely related for-profit organization. Among many other responsibilities, I.E. conducts regular continuing-educa-tion credit courses in a series called Pharmacy from the Rain Forest. In 1997, for example, 1- to 2-week courses were given, not only in Peru (Figures 9.2 to 9.24), but also in Costa Rica, Kenya, and Tanzania. (For further informa-
tion on Pharmacy Ecotour, or to join Jim Duke on a rainforest ecotour, call 1-800-633-4734.) The ACEER is guided by a distinguished international Board of Directors, as well as three advisory boards, one for environmental education, one for science, and the other dedicated to the ACEER's Peruvian operations. (To learn more about the ACEER Foundation, please contact: ACEER Foundation, Ten Environs Park, Helena, AL 35080; 1-800-255-8206 (phone), 205-425-1711 (fax).)
9.4.3 Importance of Cloning Rare and Endangered Plant Species for Distribution
Germplasm of vegetatively propagated plant material is cheaper to maintain in tissue culture18, is less expensive to ship, and has the potential to yield more plants more quickly. It is one of the preferred ways to preserve rare and endangered plant species and to distribute these species to other botanic gardens and arboreta around the world. Where conditions allow, some tissue cultured plant
material can be used to reintroduce species that have become lost or extinct in the wild.
One of the preferred methods of tissue culture is shoot-tip culture (meri-cloning). It is becoming the preferred tissue for exchange of clonal material. Tissue cultures produced from shoot-tip cultures can produce disease-free ger-mplasm, particularly with respect to viruses. Shoot-tip explants, devoid of any vascular tissue, are typically free of any viral pathogens. This protocol was developed by George Morel in France as a way to rescue virus-infected orchid plants and rapidly propagate virus-free stock. This process is used for the micropropagation of virus-free stock of any plant species. Great success stories are seen in the shoot-tip propagation of virus-free potatoes, strawberries, cassava, pelargoniums, and orchids.
In vitro ("in glass", microorganism-free cultures) disease elimination techniques help to ensure international exchange of germplasm, particularly since viral transmission through seed is known to occur.18 It allows for a far greater number of plants to be produced in a given time than by conventional propagation methods. The Micropropagation Unit at Kew Botanic Gardens propagates plants which are rare, endangered, or difficult to propagate conventionally. Techniques include micropropagation from vegetative material and in vitro germination of seeds and spores. A large number of tropical epiphytic (growing on other plants) and terrestrial (growing in the soil) orchids are grown from seed in vitro under sterile conditions. Of these, many are members of island floras and are in jeopardy.
9.4.4 Importance for Saving Plants from Extinction in Their Native Habitats
Why is it important to save rare and endangered species of plants from going extinct in their native habitats?
• At the rate at which whole ecosystems are being destroyed in the boreal forests in northern latitudes and the tropical rainforest across equatorial regions, we will see the disappearance of countless numbers of plant species, many of which have never been identified, much less studied for their potential economic utility.
• The disappearing plants may be potential sources of new medicines, foods, flavorings, natural pesticides, dyes, fibers, and wood products.
• With the extinction of plants, and the loss of the ecosystems where they exist, indigenous peoples are displaced and their cultures are irreplaceably disrupted.
• Likewise, with the extinction of plant species, many animal species that depend on the plants for food and shelter disappear. The loss of animal and insect species can also lead to the extinction of plant species where those plants rely on animal or insect pollination for reproduction.
• Just think, if even one population of plants becomes extinct, all its unique phytochemical germplasm and properties also disappear.12
In order to counteract this alarming loss of plant species worldwide, conservation organizations have to realize that we must, as quickly as possible, safeguard entire natural ecosystems from destruction by human activities. If we do this now, we not only create a sustainable environment for these plants, but also, for the animals, and indigenous peoples who reside there.
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