In a country that prides itself on its “Herbal Heritage” program, many of the world´s most important indigenous plants are rarer than ever.
In fact, in the country of some 6 million, there are only about 50,000 of the species of plant called shepherds and goats that were introduced to Europe from Africa in the 19th century, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
The country also has one of the highest rates of biodiversity loss in the world, according the International Fund for Animal Welfare.
While many of these plants are important in the local environment, they can also be endangered or threatened by human activities.
“They’re not being used because of any real conservation benefits,” said Mary Jane Sperling, a researcher with the University of Toronto.
“It’s a very hard problem to solve because of the huge diversity of species.”
Herbivores and herbivores of the futureThe Herbal Heritage program aims to identify species that have “significant conservation value and may be of conservation interest for people,” according to a press release from the University.
To that end, the university has partnered with a number of universities, conservation groups and governments around the world to identify the “most important and most valuable plants in the natural world.”
The university has collected more than 200,000 images from more than 50,0000 photographs taken by scientists over the past 20 years and then “processed and analysed” them.
According to the University, the images showed that the plants “generally have a strong relationship to their surroundings, their ecosystem, their biodiversity, their water, their soil and their people.”
“They represent an area of global importance,” Sperlling said.
“And their conservation potential is being under-appreciated.”
She said many of those plants have been considered too endangered to be “rescued” through the program, which she described as an “insider” approach to the study of plants.
“There are still people out there that do not know about plants because they don’t understand them,” Sobling said, adding that the project has “huge” implications for “our understanding of the environment and our role in the environment.”
For example, it has helped to identify some species that are under-represented in the plant database and in conservation efforts.
According the project, more than two-thirds of the plants identified by the university are endemic to Africa, while the rest of the region is “primarily tropical and subtropical.”
In addition, more “keystone species” were also identified, such as “ferns, maples and sycamores” and “fiddleheads” and some species are “particularly important to the climate system,” according the release.
A total of 3,500 species are now included in the Herbal Historical and Biochemical Atlas, which is being published in the journal PLOS ONE.
Sperling said that although the database does not provide a complete list of species, “it is one of a number that we have been able to identify through traditional sources that have been identified by traditional researchers.”
“It shows that you can’t just go into any scientific literature and look for the most important species,” she said.
While it may not be possible to save every species, Sperding said that “if you can do the best you can with what you know, and try to understand the relationships between species, it can be very effective.”
The project also helped to develop the fieldwork that led to the new map, including more than 250 field visits, which the university says are “really useful” for “getting a better understanding of what’s going on in Africa and the world.”
“These things are happening in an increasingly fragile world and they are really important for us to understand,” Sargent said.
The university said that it is working with partners to expand the map with more species and plant species that were previously unknown, as well as to continue the work of “possessing the best data possible to identify important plants and habitats that are important to people around the globe.”
It is estimated that only one-third of the planet is covered by forest, with forests accounting for nearly half of the land area.
According, Sargant, the most significant threat to the forests of the Earth is “the destruction of biodiversity.”
“We have to deal with this threat and we have to do it in a sustainable way,” she added.
For more information on the Herblore program and how to get involved, visit http://www.herbalhistoricalandbiochemical.com