Seeds preserved of 1,100 Tibetan plant species
Updated: 2012-07-27 07:14
LHASA - Chinese botanists have collected the seeds of more than 1,100 plant species found in the southwestern Tibet autonomous region and preserved them in a national germplasm bank.
The seeds were gathered over the past five years mostly near the upper reaches of the Yarlung Zangbo River and on the Qiangtang Grassland, researchers with the Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research under the Chinese Academy of Sciences told Xinhua Thursday.
The samples were derived from plant species either native to Tibet or with considerable economic value, such as varieties of grass and traditional Tibetan herbs, said the researchers.
They are being kept in China Germplasm Bank of Wild Species, a leading bio-resource storage facility dubbed the "Noah's Ark" of the country's plant species.
A 2011 report on Tibet's environment says the region has one of the most diversified gene pools in the world, with more than 9,600 wild plant species, including 855 unique to Tibet.
The seed collection is part of a large project aimed at gathering seeds, DNA samples and voucher specimens of 15,000 wild plant varieties growing on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau by the end of 2012, said Yang Xiangyun, a researcher with the germplasm bank located in Kunming, provincial capital of Yunnan.
The comprehensive project, launched in 2007, was undertaken by 12 domestic institutions that have been conducting research in Tibet as well as Qinghai, Sichuan, Yunnan and Gansu provinces in China's west, Yang said.
The whole collection will be preserved in the bank, and detailed information and pictures will be recorded in an online database, Yang said.
"The Qinghai-Tibet Plateau has many peculiar plant species, which is significant in enriching the germplasm bank," said Yang Yongping, deputy director of the Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research.
The project provided important material for bio-diversity conservation and helped the breeding of economically valuable plants on the plateau, he added.
With an investment of 148 million yuan ($23.2 million) and covering a floor area of 7,000 square meters, the germplasm bank was established by the Kunming Institute of Botany with the help of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and put into use in October 2008.
The bank currently keeps seeds of 7,471 plant species growing across the country and aims to expand its collection to 19,000 species in about a decade.
The bank comprises a seed section, an in-vitro micro-propagation unit, a microorganism bank, an animal germplasm bank, a DNA bank and an information center.
A 680-square-meter freezer in the bank can prevent the seeds from being damaged by mildew and insect infestations. Inside the bank, the seeds can maintain their hereditary features and ability to sprout for as long as a century.