Despite these achievements, experts say that China’s botanical research, especially in Yunnan Province, is far from complete as many places remain unexplored.
Chinese scientists discovered thousands of new species of animals and plants in the province in the past decades. According to the “Checklist of New and Newly Recorded Species in Yunnan (1992- 2020)” released in May by the Department of Ecology and Environment of Yunnan Province and the Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, 2,519 new species were discovered in the province over the past three decades, more than one-third of all new species found in China during the same period.
In addition to new discoveries, 1,199 known species were found in the province for the first time. In total, 3,718 species were recorded for the first time in the province over the past three decades, including 1,901 higher plant species.
In the seven-year period between 2013 and 2019 following the publication of Flora Yunnanica, at least 163 new vascular plant species were discovered in Yunnan.
But according to Li Dezhu, a botanist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ (CAS) Kunming Institute of Botany and former editor of Floral Yunnanica, the many discoveries of new species in the province, albeit good news, also stirred a strong sense of urgency among botanists.
“They tell us that if we don’t hurry up, many species not yet discovered will be lost forever,” Li told NewsChina. “We’re racing against time, and often when we find a new species, it’s already endangered.”
One of the most well-known examples is the discovery of Pinus squamat, popularly known as the Qiaojia pine or southern lacebark pine. When it was first discovered in 1990 in a single locality in Qiaojia County, Yunnan, there were only 34 trees left. Following decades of preservation and artificial nurturing, there are now over 3,000.
According to a study from the Institute of Botany, CAS, which evaluated the endangered status of China’s 30,068 species of flowering plants, 30 were found to have become extinct or extinct in the wild, while 3,363 are classified as vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered. Over half (1,710) of the species under threat are found in Yunnan Province. ��
The combined effects of habitat degradation, environmental contamination and excessive exploitation are major threats to plant biodiversity, concluded the study, which was released in 2017.
Li said that the province’s rapid development of real estate, tourism and infrastructure poses a major threat to biodiversity. As some regions in the province remain unsurveyed, “deforestation of a single hill could have wiped out an undiscovered plant species,” Li said.