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Tropical research garden propers
By Chen Liang (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-07-07 11:12

Tall palm trees trim roads; huge banyan trees with lush canopies and numerous downward air roots dominate the woods; water lilies with red, yellow and white flowers dot ponds and canals, and colorful tropical flowers and exotic plants are everywhere. To thousands of visitors who have been to Xishuangbanna in southernmost part of Yunnan province, Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden (XTBG) is one of the most beautiful gardens they can find in the country and a must-see site for a day trip.

Although, few of them know that the garden under Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) is also the country's stronghold for research and conservation of tropical plants and a magnet for botanists around the world.

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This week more than 130 biologists and botanists from 14 countries and regions, including Bangladesh, China, Czech Republic, India, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, New Guinea, Singapore, Thailand, the United Kingdom, the United States and Vietnam, gathered there to attend the 5th International Symposium on the Family Zingiberaceae (Ginger).

The symposium will not only focus on research progresses about gingers, but also contribute to biodiversity conservation, said Chen Jin, director of the botanic garden at the opening ceremony of the meeting held on Monday.

Of the 35 living collections of XTBG, the country's leading biologist said, the special collection of the family of ginger has 200 species and has provided a unique opportunity for the garden's scientists to conduct scientific research in collaboration with international partners. "Indeed, we know that all plants in the family of ginger have economic value – can be used as food additives, condiments and medicines -- are indispensable to our life and they require special habitats to survive," he says. "But the overwhelming environmental degradation has put those plants at high risk and effective conservation actions will require a long-term commitment from a wide range of stakeholders, not only scientists, but also policy makers, concerned citizens, and the general public."

"I am delighted that colleagues throughout the world have come to share their scientific and conservation works about the family of ginger. I hope that all of us will work together to provide strategies for the sustainable use and effective conservation of plants in the family."

According to Tang Jiahua, vice-governor of Xishuangbanna Dai autonomous prefecture, Xishangbanna is place haboring richest biological and cultural diversity in China. The tropical and subtropical forests in the region have provided a rich ecological environment for many tropical plants including ginger plants. At present, 17 genera and more than 110 species of gingers have been recorded in the region. Twelve local ethnic minorities have had a long history of recognizing and using ginger plant resources in their life. Besides the ginger species which are commonly used there as condiments and medicines, the cultivation of sha ren (Amonum villosum fruits), which has been popularized and widely planted in Xishuangbanna since the 1970s, has become an important source of income for the minority people who live in the mountainous areas.

XTBG has given great importance to the collection and study of ginger plants since the 1960s. "I believe that the symposium will provide a good platform for all of us to communicate with each others and promote study, utilization and conservation of ginger plants," says the official. "Xishuangbanna will benefit a lot in its future development from the achievements of this important meeting."

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