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Conserving Eden

Participatory forest management in the Tien Shan region of Kyrgyzstan

armenica vulgaris
tien shan
entrance
 Armenica vulgaris
 View to the Tien Shan mountains
Bishkek Botanical Garden entrance

 

Kyrgyzstan lies at the heart of the internationally important biodiversity hotspot formed by the mountains of Central Asia.  Featuring a variety of land forms, rock types and climatic conditions over a wide altitudinal range, this hotspot is home to an immensly rich diversity of animal and plant life.  Especially in the Tien Shan region of  the Kyrgyz Republic, broadleaved forests form unique ecosystems predominantly composed of walnut (Juglans regia).  In these walnut forests, a number of other fruit and nut bearing trees and shrubs occur, including species of apples, pears, cherries, plums, apricots and almonds.  The walnut forests have always been of vital importance to the livelihoods of the peopel living in the region as a source of firewood, timber and food.

The Red List of Trees of Central Asia identifies more than 40 species as globally threatened with extinction, including a number of wild fruit and nut bearing trees and shrubs.

The Project

As part of a 3-year project funded by the Darwin initiative, BGCI has been working with Kyrgyz scientists and international experts from Bournemouth University and FFI to strengthen national and local capacity for the participatory management of the walnut tree forests in the Tien Shan region.  BGCI's main role in the project was to help develop the educational and interpretational resources and capacity at the Bishkek Botanic Garden in order to raise awareness of the importance of native plant diversity in Kyrgyzstan

Bishkek Botanic Garden

Established in 1938 and named after the Tatar botanist Enver Z. Gareev, the botanic garden in the heart of the capital Bishkek originally served as a centre for research and conservation of the local flora as well as of exotic species. Over a total area of 150 hectares, the garden and arboretum’s collections hold some 5,000 taxa of higher, vascular plants. Comprising a large area with fruit tree cultivars, in particular apples, pears and plums, there are also a number of crop wild relatives including Malus niedzwetzkyana, Malus sieversii,  Prunus sogdiana, and Vitis usunachmatica.  

As part of the project, the central role of the Botanical Garden in environmental education and raising awareness of the need to safeguard the genetic diversity of wild fruit and nut-bearing species has been enhanced through training and development of interpretation materials and facilities.  Promotional materials as well as an interpretational display exhibit about Kyrgyzstan’s fruit and nut forests have been established, including eight species-specific panels and one display describing the conservation goals of this initiative, the exhibit provides information on the species’ use, distribution and conservation status, in three languages, Kyrgyz, Russian and English. Aimed at the wider public, this permanent display at the botanic garden provides an ideal vehicle for public outreach in an urban centre of over 900,000 dwellers. Many of the species that have been researched under this Darwin Initiative project, grow in the garden’s living collections offering thereby an excellent opportunity for visitors to see the live plants, while learning about the importance of these species and the threats they face in the wild.

Download the report "Gardening the wild – growing the mind: fostering Kyrgyzstan’s botanical community to advance public outreach and environmental awareness" here

Download the intrepretive panels here. Panels include information on: Walnut, wild apple, wild pear, wild plum, wild apricot, wild almond, wild grape and mountain ash.

See this work reported in PlantTalk magazine