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The Second International Symposium of Mapping Asia Plants Held Online

Plant diversity information is fundamental for biodiversity research and conservation. To promote the communication and cooperation for plant diversity research, improve our understanding of plants in Asia and beyond, Biodiversity Committee, Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), organized the Second International Symposium of Mapping Asia Plants with support from Alliance of International Science Organizations (ANSO), International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Asia Regional Members Committee, and IUCN Asia Regional Office on January 20, 2021. About 200 participants from 17 countries attended the symposium via different online platforms and had a hot discussion with speakers.

Prof. CAO Jinghua, the Executive Director of the ANSO Secretariat gave a welcome speech at the opening session. He briefly introduced the history of ANSO and how ANSO promoted shared development, sustainable development and the advancement of the SDGs including biodiversity conservation through catalyzing and implementing concrete international cooperation initiatives in Science, Technology & Innovation and Capacity Building.

At the symposium, 12 wonderful presentations by invited speakers from 7 countries were delivered.

At large regional scale, Dr. Ferry Slik from Universiti Brunei Darussalam shared his views on how to make an interactive checklist for the Asia-Pacific region. He introduced the checklist of vascular plants of Sunda-Sahul Convergence Zone and the online Flora Malesiana project. Dr. ZHU Li from the Institute of Botany, CAS, gave a talk on “Biodiversity conservation planning in Asian countries”. She introduced how to identify representative areas for effectively protecting biodiversity at national and regional scale to achieve the goals of the post-2020 biodiversity framework.

At sub-regional scale, Prof. Richard Corlett from Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, CAS, presented his talk entitled “How can we save all the plants in Southeast Asia?”. He stated that the plant conservation was greatly under resourced and there may be 30-40% of all plant species are threatened. He also discussed the major threats for plant diversity in this area and ways to save them, such as improving the inventor, and making data accessible online etc. Dr. Daniel C. Thomas from Singapore Botanic Garden introduced “Cataloguing the plant diversity of the Flora Malesiana region”. He showed the discrepancy between opportunistically compiled data and expert-verified data, discussed the sources of discrepancy and detailed the progress of Flora Malesiana Checklist. Prof. MA Jinshuang from Beijing Botanical Garden, shared “A Checklist of Woody Plants from East Asia”. This checklist was compiled mainly based on the data from Flora of China, Flora of Japan, The Genera of Vascular Plants of Korea and Flora of Korea. Prof. Alireza Naqinezhad from University of Mazandaran, Iran, presented “Patterns of plant diversity and conservation in Southwest Asia with special focus on the Iranian plateau”. He introduced the vegetation types of Iranian plateau, the progress of building national checklists and plant distribution database. The high endemic plant species richness among countries in the region were also shared.  

At national scale, Prof. Ori Fragman-Sapir from Jerusalem Botanical Garden, gave a talk on “The Flora of Israel online project - a treasure of data and challenges”. There are about 2500 native species and 200 alien species in Israel. He introduced the Flora of Israel Online website and shared rare plants from Isreal. Prof. Hikmat Hisoriev from Institute of Botany, Tajik Academy of Sciences, presented the “Endangerment status and extinction risk of vascular plants in Tajikistan - the red list of the core area of the Mountains of Central Asia global biodiversity hotspot”. There are 1627 taxa have been assessed as threatened nationally, including 217 critically endangered, 717 endangered and 639 vulnerable species. How to improve the plant diversity conservation was also discussed. Dr. Alexey Seregin from Lomonosov’s Moscow State University, gave a presentation entitled “Electronic resources and patterns of Russian flora”. He first shared the general geography, biomes and resources about Russia. Then he introduced the published floras, electronic resources (including digitized literature, digitized herbarium collections, databased literature records, observations with photos) and basic patterns of Russian flora. At local scale, Prof. Andrey V. Shcherbakov from Lomonosov’s Moscow State University, presented the main sources of information on the flora of the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug, which is in the Far North, the central part of Russia's Arctic facade. He introduced the main vegetation types, and shared the specimen collection status of herbarium and the main floristic publications from this area.

Except progress of plant diversity research in Asia region, Prof. HU Guangwan from Wuhan Botanical Garden, CAS, shared “Plant diversity in tropical East Africa and the project of Flora of Kenya”. He showed the geological character of East Africa and introduced the main vegetation types and plant richness in tropical East Africa. The ongoing project Flora of Kenya planned to document all vascular plants about 7000 to 8000 species in Kenya.  

As the Vice Chair & Secretary General of Biodiversity Committee, CAS, Prof. MA Keping from the Institute of Botany, CAS, gave a last talk on “Mapping Asia Plants (MAP): Progress and Next Steps”. He introduced the mission for MAP was to provide a better mapping infrastructure for plant diversity conservation in Asia. He shared the progress from each sub-region and in each country, including vascular plant diversity patterns at different levels, number of species, families, genera, digitized specimens, and showed the ten most diverse plant families and genera in sub-regions. He also talked about new initiatives, such as Asia Virtual Herbarium, MAP-Central Asia, MAP-Pan-Himalaya, MAP-Myanmar etc.

At the closing session, Ms. Aban Marker Kabraji, the director for IUCN Asia Regional Office, Prof. Ferry Slik, the Curator of the UBD Herbarium of Universiti Brunei Darussalam and Prof. MA Keping gave concluding remarks. Ms. Aban Marker Kabraji briefly introduced the participation of IUCN in plant biodiversity research and conservation through different IUCN initiatives, and a number of plant-related projects in Asia. She mentioned that there remained an urgent need to strengthen the world’s efforts in plant conservation, especially in Asia, where the accessibility of data on Asian plant biodiversity was very weak compared to other regions of the world. She expressed her hope that this plant symposium could become an annual tradition, and that an increasing number of IUCN members, partner organizations, Species Survival Commission experts and IUCN Secretariat staff would take part in the event. In Prof. Ferry Slik’s remarks, he highly agreed with the MAP’s next plan to build an Asia Virtual Herbarium. He expressed his support to build an interactive checklist for the Asia region, and also mentioned it was important to connect existing data from this area, though many data were available now but still more efforts were needed.

Lastly, Prof. MA thanked all the efforts to contribute to the meeting. More cooperation was expected with other networks, taxonomists from Asia, especially from South Asia, Southeast Asia, which are the most diverse areas in biodiversity but also difficult parts to mapping biodiversity. More colleagues, taxonomists are welcome to work together for a better virtual infrastructure for plant diversity in Asia.