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Race Is on to Protect Three Gorges Flora
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Xiang Xiufa, a former fish farmer, is racing against time to protect rare and endangered plants in the vicinity of the Three Gorges reservoir.


The 44-year-old has already preserved nearly 10,000 rare plants, including 176 species, in his botanical garden. It has been a drain on his time and money but worth it, he said.


"For pride and the good of future generations I cannot give up."


The Three Gorges area is the natural habitat of more than 500 rare species. About 200 of these will be submerged when dam construction is finished in 2009 and reservoir water levels reach 175 m, experts with the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) said.


"This area is one of the nation's most important botanical bases. We should do anything we can to preserve and protect these treasures," CAS botanist Li Zhenyu said yesterday.


"Each [plant] means some potential solution for a future natural or health problem. We may suffer great losses if we just sit by," he said.


The State Forestry Administration and the Three Gorges Project Construction Committee has spent millions of yuan preserving bio-diversity in the region over the past years.


Scientists at Wuhan Botanic Garden (WBG), with CAS, have transplanted more than 100 species to reserves in Hubei Province's Yichang and Wuhan.


CAS scientists in Beijing have set up seed banks and frozen genes to aid long-term preservation.


"Our institute has conserved 70 to 80 percent of the endangered plant species in the Three Gorges area," WBG's Wu Jinqing said.


"To protect plants in the Three Gorges is an arduous, long-term task. We need to study these plants," he said.


(China Daily September 11, 2007)

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