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New Ruling to Protect Rare Species

The first National Strategy for Plant Conservation was unveiled on Tuesday as part of China's efforts to halt destruction of its flora and fauna in the wake of rapid economic growth.

The strategy was devised by the State Forestry Administration (SFA), the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the State Environmental Protection Administration.

Taking four years to complete, the strategy sets out the current status of plant conservation, problems to be addressed, and actions to be taken.

"The document is framed according to the 16 targets of the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation, and will guide China's wild plant conservation and management in the future," Jia Jiansheng, the SFA's deputy director, said.

The strategy aims to tackle China's plant conservation issue head-on and fulfill its international obligations.

It focuses on four themes - understanding and documenting existing plant diversity, conservation of plant diversity, sustainable use of wild plant resources, and generating public awareness.

As one of the 187 signatory countries to the Convention on Biological Diversity, China is one of the first countries to take concrete action.

The country has more than 30,000 species of vascular plants, about 10 percent of the world's total.

The number of endangered species has soared in the past 30 years due to rapid economic development, increasing population and constant damage to the environment.

Since 1992, the number of threatened plants has risen 10-fold with an estimated 15 to 20 percent now at risk.

China plans to "effectively conserve" 90 percent of key wild plants through State protection by 2010 - the same deadline for establishing a wild plant monitoring system.

With a number of conservation model areas already developed, the strategy will initially be implemented in these areas. This will be followed by a nationwide survey of other plant species and habitats, and any new building or industrial project will be subject to environmental scrutiny.

The construction of China's National Herbarium and development of a herbaria network will also be accelerated.

Another network linking the country's 2,349 nature reserves is under review to ensure full representation of all major ecological zones, especially deserts, grasslands and wetlands.

China began setting up nature reserves in 1956, and in 1992, published its first Red Data Book listing rare plant species. Those in danger of extinction which were put under State control in 1999. In November 2006, a meeting in Beijing of State officials, organized by Botanic Gardens Conservation International, started drafting work on the current strategy.

(China Daily February 28, 2008)

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