Floristic Inventory of a Neglected Biodiversity Hotspot: Myanmar's Northern Forest Complex

Kate Armstrong and collaborators

Myanmar's Northern Forest complex hosts the largest remaining tracts of primary forest in mainland Southeast Asia. The area is recognized as a biodiversity hotspot with an estimated 6,000 species of which 1,500 species are estimated to exist nowhere else. However, this poorly known and botanically important region has been largely closed off to researchers for the past 75 years so the true extent of plant diversity has yet to be established. This project will conduct the first intensive botanical inventory of the Hkakaborazi-Hponganrazi region since the early 20th century and fill a major gap in the understanding of Southeast Asian plant diversity. Researchers from The New York Botanical Garden, Wildlife Conservation Society, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, and the Myanmar Forest Department will sample broadly throughout the Hkakaborazi-Hponganrazi region at different times of the year to maximize chances of collecting rare or narrowly endemic species. Resulting collection and distribution data will be provided directly to the Myanmar Forest Department for use in planning decisions within the region. The project will also improve international scientific infrastructure and collaboration by training botanists and foresters in field and herbarium techniques and by improving research capacity in Myanmar's Forest Research Institute herbarium.

All collected specimens will be digitized, databased, georeferenced and their data will be made available on the internet through an open-access Myanmar flora web portal. A taxonomic checklist of the vascular plant species of Hkakaborazi-Hponganrazi will also be produced. Collections made as a part of this project will stimulate taxonomic research on the Myanmar flora by research specialists and support molecular phylogenetic and ecological studies. Specimen data will also provide the baseline information required to make planning decisions affecting the Northern Forest Complex ecosystem, and facilitate broad scale analyses of plant diversity patterns within Southeast Asia.

Related project: Plant Conservation and Forest Resource Management in Myanmar