Figs and fig wasps


variation in altitude and environment makes it one of the most plant-rich countries in the world. By comparison the UK has 2,000 species recorded in its own flora. Knott describes the excitement at the extraordinary diversity of habitats and plants found in just one short preliminary expedition up just one mountain valley. The project is taking place as a result of the British Government’s Darwin Initiative — a scheme of grants targeted at biodiversity conservation and sustainability issues in less developed countries. The grant involves three partner institutes within Nepal: the Royal Nepal Academy of Science and Technology, the government’s Department of Plant Resources, and the Department of Botany at Tribhuvan University. The current project builds on previous grants under the Darwin Initiative that focused on Nepal’s flora, a key one of which dealt with plant information and technology transfer, run by the Natural History Museum in London. But the current project is much more ambitious. Although only funded for three years at present, the team hopes funds will be made available for the estimated 15 years it will take to complete the new project. The Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh already have a few of Nepal’s most illusive plants. Collected over 100 years ago by Victorian explorers, the plants have been nurtured by generations of botanists. Back in their native homeland, some have not fared quite so well and are on the verge of extinction. The botanists hope to reintroduce Victorian and modern seedlings to Nepal from the Edinburgh gardens. In spite of the hi-tech approach, the team will set about collecting the thousands of different plants in the same way the Victorians did — by going out and searching for them. Part of the training has involved three expeditions, with the most recent in September, going to the Sagarmatha national park in the Mount Everest region. On these expeditions, each botanist specialises in a particular plant group and gathers specimens. But already the team are making worrying discoveries. In the picture above, a stand of gentians can be seen in the foreground but to the right, a recent deposit of morraines is visible. Knott believes these deposits are the result of a recent glacial lake outburst flood, which may have occurred because of temperature changes as a result global warming. “It looks like quite a devastating flood,” he says. With growing human pressures on native plant species too, the challenge to document Nepal’s present flora is on. Current Biology Vol 15 No 24 R978

DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2005.11.057

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@article{Cook2005FigsAF, title={Figs and fig wasps}, author={James M. Cook and Stuart A . West}, journal={Current Biology}, year={2005}, volume={15}, pages={R978-R980} }