Diversity and conservation of Chinese wild begonias

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Abstract

Begonia, one of the most diverse plant taxa and the fifth or sixth largest angiosperm genus, consists of over 1800 accepted species. The number of species recognized within this genus has greatly increased over the past 20 years, rising from 80 to 200 species in China alone. Based on recent field surveys, the number of begonia species in China is predicted to be between 250 and 300. Given the large number of begonia species that still remain to be described, further taxonomical work is urgently required. This is especially true for Chinese Begonia, in which there is a huge diversity of habitat, habit, plant size, leaf type, flower and fruit morphology, and most species are narrowly distributed in isolated habitats that are subject to negative disturbances from climate change, as well as agricultural and industrial activities. Although the conservation status for the majority of species has been evaluated using the standards of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the results don't represent the truth in many species, and also about 11.5% of which are data-absent. In addition, illegal collection and over-harvesting of wild begonias for ornamental or medicinal use has increased due to the rapid development of internet commerce. Far more often than predicted, these species should be categorized as rare and endangered and require immediate protection. Ex situ conservation of Chinese begonias started in 1995 and over 60% of the total species have been so far introduced into cultivation by several major botanical gardens in China. However, only few research institutions, limited funds and human resources have been involved in Begonia conservation; moreover, no project has conducted reintroduction. Therefore, more conservation-based work remains to be done. Improved conservation of Chinese begonias in the future depends on further field survey, an improved understanding of population diversity, and integrative approaches, including in situ and ex situ conservation, seed banking, and plant reintroduction. Species-targeted conservation zones should be established for endangered species excluded from the existing nature reserves. Additionally, laws pertaining to plant protection should be extended to prevent the illegal collection and transaction of wild plants, particularly for those species with unique habitats and small populations.

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Tian, D., Xiao, Y., Tong, Y., Fu, N., Liu, Q., & Li, C. (2018, June 1). Diversity and conservation of Chinese wild begonias. Plant Diversity. KeAi Publishing Communications Ltd. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pld.2018.06.002

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