Ecological Stations at XiShuangbana Tropical Botanic Gardens

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At the XiShuangbana Tropical Botanic Gardens in XiShuangbana, some of the most interesting cutting-edge research is happening. The Gardens has multiple ecological stations, with these stations first being founded in 1958 in collaboration with the Soviet Union. The Gardens itself is part of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, but is also part of a larger network of 44 stations making up the Chinese Ecosystem Research Network. As part of this network, XiShuangbana Tropical Botanic Gardens looks specifically at conservation and biodiversity within tropical forest ecology.

Dr. Chen Hui is the Chief researcher at the XiShuangbana Ecological Station, and was interviewed about his research. He said that the Gardens uses their own local tropic forest to look at the mechanisms around how plants respond to climate change. Using four different towers in over 30 square hectares of forest, Dr. Hui measures the flux in plant response by measuring local trees every five years. He also measures the soils around the trees and the hydrology of the forest to notices changes in water and nutrient flow. He noticed from his results that the local tropical ecosystems could be an effective carbon sink for excess CO2 in the air due to climate change. Besides the responses of climate change, Dr. Hui is focused on trying to help restore degraded local ecosystems by restoring native species and trying to build up the biodiversity within the area.

XiShuangbana’s research could be fundamental in helping to determine how to effectively use native forests as carbon sinks for the excess CO2 coming from climate change. While the Gardens itself has been closed to visitors for some time due to COVID-19, the research continues.

Research is not only focused on just climate change, but maintaining the XiShuangbana Tropical Botanic Gardens living collections as well. These collections are of native plants to the region, but also of endangered and at-risk species in need of preservation. Back in February, a new species of begonia was discovered in southwest China and brought to the XiShuangbana Tropical Botanic Gardens for safe-keeping as part of their living collections. Called Begonia Puerensis, this plant has beautiful fuchsia flowers that delicately drape down over large green leaves. The experts at the Gardens have speculated that around 200 to 350 plants can be found in China. Begonia Puerensis does have separate male and female flowers, with the male being pinker than the female. This plant is important for examining biodiversity research, as well as the effects climate change are having on the local tropical ecosystems of China. Thanks to the research at XiShuangbana Tropical Botanic Gardens, the effects of climate change will be better understood, and hopefully can be slowed with proper communication and implementation of methods. If the Begonia Puerensis has shown anything, it is that life can survive in even the most stressful conditions.

This post was written and made possible by BGCI Intern, Kenna Castleberry.

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