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University of Namibia tackles plant species data deficiency


09:58, April 22, 2013

WINDHOEK, April 21 (Xinhua) -- The near-endemic tree species, Moringa ovalifolia, grows on rocky hills in Etosha National Park in Namibia's Oshikoto region. Although there is a great concentration of the trees at the area, its exact quantity remains unknown.

Like the Moringa ovalifolia, there is a lack of information on many plants in Namibia, said Dr Ndafuda Shiponeni, a senior researcher for the Biodiversity and Ecology Research Program (BERP) at the University of Namibia ahead of Earth Day on April 22.

"Species data deficient a status of many Namibian plants remains a barrier which constraints important conservation measures such as the standard International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) classification of species," she explained.

"Without a good understanding of our own species, we face the danger of introducing the exotic species. For example, due to a lack of information on this species (Moringa ovalifolia), which is indigenous, a congeneric species Moringa oleifera, which is exotic to Africa is highly promoted. The problems associated with introducing alien species particularly in areas where closely related species are native are well known," Shiponeni added.

Not only that, but the standard IUCN classification of species in categories of conservation status relies heavily on updated population data of species, whereas regulatory requirements, such as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), requires information on species, according to Shiponeni.

Faced with a challenge, Shiponeni told Xinhua on Thursday that the University of Namibia through its BERP is at the forefront of a research project to tackle plant species data deficiency.

Themed, 'Population Ecology of Indigenous Plants of Conservation Concerns', the project aims to investigate and understand various aspects of the population biology of the species.

The research project will further seek to address the questions around the population structure, population dynamics, genetic diversity, reproductive ecology, community and habitat association of populations occupying different habitats in the country as well as the prevalence of 'porcupine damage' associated with the plants.

"Namibia has many plant species that, due to their endemic nature, or ecological and economic importance warrant them the status of conservation concern. So, being almost the only country with this species holds the responsibility not only to conserve, but to provide sound scientific knowledge of population ecology of its endemics," she added.

The project is a team effort of the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Namibia, Etosha Ecological Institute, Scientific Services, and the National Botanical Research Institute as well as international institutions.

BERP's work forms part of a growing international focus in pursuing scientific knowledge of the biological functioning and pressures facing terrestrial ecosystems.

Email|Print|Comments(Editor:YaoChun、Gao Yinan)

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