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Contributor: Zhang, Libing
This photo essay contains pictures of ferns from karst caves in Guizhou, a province in southwest China.
Through funding provided by the National Geographic Society and Chengdu Institute of Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, I arrived in Beijing, China on October 9, 2008. After one day work in the herbarium PE in Beijing, I arrived at Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan Province, on October 10. In collaboration with Prof. Hai He of Chongqing Normal University, I started my field work in Guizhou in the middle of October 2008.
In a month we explored c. 76 karst caves in western, central and southern Guizhou. We collected about 1,000 sheets of specimens in c. 230 gatherings. We also obtained silica-gel dried DNA material of some 100 fern and seed plant accessions through the field work.
Interestingly, this one-month exploration in Guizhou has led to the discovery of seven species new to science. This, together with previous findings, well demonstrates that the fern diversity in Guizhou has not adequately been explored. Further exploration is desperately needed, especially to the karst caves with fragile habitats for ferns, before any new species go to extinction.
Most notably, seven new fern species discovered in southern Guizhou have remarkably limited distribution. Six of them were found in 1-2 locations with four of them in single karst caves, two in a single karst valley, and one in two karst caves. Such extremely restricted occurrence of cave ferns raises concerns of conservation. Given that more and more karst caves are becoming touristic in Guizhou, cave ferns are under increasing threat of extinction in Guizhou.
The pictures in this photo essay reflect only a portion of cave fern diversity in Guizhou.
Feedback on the identities of the ferns illustrated in this photo essay would be most welcome: Libing.Zhang@mobot.org
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