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How does China compare to North America in size and plant diversity?
In an area approximately the size of the continental United States, China has some 31,000 plant species. The United States and Canada combined contain approximately 20,000 plant species. The plants of China are the most diverse in the North Temperate zone.
Why is China so rich in plant diversity?
China is the only place on Earth where there is an unbroken connection between tropical, subtropical, temperate and boreal forests. This vegetational continuum has resulted in associations of plants that are rarely seen in other parts of the world. Many plant species that were once widespread throughout the northern hemisphere were wiped out by glaciation in North America but survived in China. Nearly 120 genera in 60 families of plants have disjunct populations in eastern Asia and temperate North America, relicts of the once widespread flora.
Who will use the Flora?
The Flora will be an invaluable resource for those working in applied and basic research in systematics as well as many other disciplines. The data from Flora of China, which are included on the Missouri Botanical Garden's botanical database (TROPICOS) and eFloras.org can be used by botanists, land managers, foresters, biologists and conservation groups in biogeographical and ecological studies, environmental monitoring and conservation, as well as applied and basic research in plant systematics and medicine.
Why is an English-language Flora of China necessary?
While no modern language is truly international, English is by far the most accessible language to botanists around the world. An English-language Flora of China will make information about these important plants available to the widest spectrum of scientists worldwide.
Is information on the plants of China available in Chinese?
Yes. The Florae Reipublicae Popularis Sinicae (FRPS) is the Chinese-language, first edition of the Flora of China, containing 80 volumes, bound in 125 books. The English-language Flora of China is an updated, revised edition of the FRPS.
What information is included in the Flora?
Complete descriptions are included for every species in the volumes. Each species is described and information about family, genus and nomenclature, habitat and distribution within and outside of China is provided. Where novel taxonomic usage is introduced, reasoning and discussion about the change is presented and inadequacies and unresolved problems in current taxonomy are pointed out where appropriate. A separate series of illustration volumes (Flora of China Illustrations) is being produced.
Will the Flora of China information be computerized?
Yes. All the data from Flora of China are included in TROPICOS and eFloras.org. The databases allow statistical comparisons of plant distributions and characteristics in a variety of regions in ways never before possible. The data are now made readily accessible by scientists and scholars throughout the world on the Internet, through TROPICOS and through eFloras.org.
Why has botanical information about China been limited?
Extensive systematic collections of Chinese plants were not begun until the late 19th and early 20th centuries. At first, Westerners explored mainly in readily accessible areas. Chinese botanists started collecting and studying their flora in the 1920s and 30s, making extensive collections over much of China. From the late 1930s until 1949, China was mostly inaccessible to both western and Chinese botanists because of the war with Japan and internal disturbances. The size and complexity of the Chinese flora, the relatively recent period of botanical exploration and the periods of disruption in botanical study have resulted in relatively few comprehensive published works. Since 1949, however, with stabilization of the political situation in China, and with increasing emphasis on basic biological research by the Chinese government, there has been a considerable increase in botanical exploration.
A decade after the founding of the People's Republic of China, a project was started to produce a flora of the country, the Florae Reipublicae Popularis Sinicae. Extensive botanical exploration has accompanied the publication of the Flora. Since beginning work on FRPS in 1959, however, Chinese botanists have felt isolated and have been concerned that many of the names they have used might not be generally applicable or their descriptions in line with those used by other scientists. Chinese botanists are bringing their names up-to-date and the knowledge of their plants into register with most other parts of the world through the Flora of China project.
What is the conservation situation in China?
For thousands of years up to the present, China has relied heavily on wood for construction and fuel. Deforestation has created many desert areas in north and northwest China. The Da-Qing-Shan (Big Green Mountain) outside of Hohhot (Nei Mongol or Inner Mongolia) is a desert with dust-filled air and soil erosion cracks of more than 10 meters wide. It was a thick forest during the "Warlord Period" only 70 years ago. The expansion of the desert and the shrinking of the prairie grassland of northeastern provinces and Nei Mongol occurred during the 1970s when the government decided to convert the grassland into crop fields. Rampant deforestation continues.
In the course of the compilation of Florae Reipublicae Popularis Sinicae, the Chinese language flora of China, taxonomists found that about 10 percent (approximately 3,000 species) of the total Chinese species they dealt with are threatened or endangered. It is likely that some of them have already become extinct, or are very rare and in peril of extinction.
What are the conservation implications of the Flora of China project?
The Flora of China will contribute greatly to the conservation of Chinese plants. Consistent effort is being made during the course of the preparation of the Flora to identify threatened and endangered species, making possible studies to relocate these rare, threatened and endangered species and to bring them into cultivation in China and elsewhere. Because China is home to such a large proportion of the plants of the world, the preservation of these species, which in many cases are the relicts of North Temperate species that were more widespread in the past, are of special importance for all people. The updated, English-language Flora will help enlist the participation of the international community in China's effort to preserve its own botanical diversity.
The Flora will help scientists learn more about the plants of China that can be used for reforestation and re-establishment of sustainable communities throughout the country, which have been so extensively devastated by human activities in the past.