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Indigenous peoples at forefront of climate change offer lessons on plant biodiversity
Date:2/27/2012

rop breeding in modern agriculture to promote biodiversity; we have much to learn from traditional knowledge."

Yanesha agriculture is also characterized by landscape diversity over time. A swidden field is planted with a succession of multiple cropscorn, beans and other crops are planted first in a lowland field, followed by cassava and other crops planted underneath six months later. The next year, bananas and plantains are among crops planted beneath the cassava, with fruit trees the following year and a managed fallow after; the cycle repeats every few years. This succession of agriculture differs with habitat, creating a "patchwork" in a complex landscape that promotes tropical biodiversity and long term sustainability in a challenging rainforest biome.

Switching focus from the upper Amazon to the eastern Himalayas, the Tibetans dwell on the slopes of sacred Mt. Khawa Karpo (6,740 meters above sea level) and the elbows of the upper Mekong River (2,000 meters). Tibetan traditional knowledge, like that of the Yanesha of the Amazon, has long emphasized adaptation and biodiversity, and is now challenged by climate change.

Tibetans depend on biodiversity and entire landscapes for their livelihoods. Salick's team measured the biodiversity on Mt. Khawa Karpo by sampling vegetation along vertical transects up the mountain. They found tremendously high variation of plant species and richness at different elevations. These diverse alpine mountain ranges are also among those most likely to suffer critical species losses as the result of global climate change. Contemporary photos of the Himalayas show exceptional glacial retreat and tree line and shrub advance, more so than other alpine areas around the globe. Some of the most threatened, slow-growing plants such as the endemic snow lotus, used to treat blood pressure and hemorrhaging, could become extinct while more common "weedy" species take over and lessen the region's biodiversity.


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Contact: Karen Hill
karen.hill@mobot.org
314-577-0254
Missouri Botanical Garden
Source:Eurekalert

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