FAKE Conference Reports

Example 1 - IDENTIFICATION AND CONSERVATION OF IMPORTANT PLANT AREAS FOR MEDICINAL PLANTS IN THE HIMALAYA

According to Appendix I within the above Project and Workshop Report (organised jointly by Plantlife International and the Ethnobotanical Society of Nepal), various species were noted as 'commercially threatened' in the India Himalaya. See: https://www.plantlife.org.uk/application/files/5714/8232/9980/IPAHim_MP_FINAL_REPORT.pdf 

I disagree that Delphinium denudatum or Arnebia benthamii are 'Critically Endangered' and to include Meconopsis aculeata is farcical - as the latter species occurs in large quantities amongst rocks and on cliffs, often damp, typically @ 3300-4500m.  As M.aculeata occurs over a wide geographical range within the VAST North-Western Himalaya, which is infrequently surveyed by regional botanists, with the higher altitudes, where this mostly is found, seldom explored in at all! To become familiar with this blue-poppy one often has to scramble amongst rocks, which I KNOW rarely happens - so how can local botanists possibly state this species is 'Endangered', let alone 'Critically' so i.e. likely to become extinct?  Ludicrous.  Many large populations of Meconopsis aculeata are completely out of harms way, requiring serious mountaineering and rock-climbing skills to access them - just as some colonies of the 'Snowdon Lily' (Lloydia serotina) in the UK can only be surveyed by abseiling. 


'The West Himalayan Blue-poppy' (Meconopsis  aculeata) - growing amongst boulders; unless it is in flower, one cannot locate specimens without scrambling amongst rocks (not all of which are accessible) - there are usually numerous seedlings © Chris Chadwell

Meconopsis  aculeata - a very showy plant utilised in Tibetan Medicine © Chris Chadwell


The list in the Appendix also falsely claims that Rhododendron anthopogon is 'Endangered' - this dwarf shrub grows abundantly - Dr Ralph Stewart, who knew the flora of Pakistan and Kashmir well, accurately states this to be "gregarious and very common in the alpine zone @ 2850-4200m". It is found by the million over a wide geographical range!  To observe this species one has to explore higher elevation parts of mountain slopes and passes - which is physically demanding.  It cannot be surveyed from an office or close to the road-side when travelling by vehicle.  Proper treks (involving camping for several days) are essential to assess the occurrence of this species. How can people who spend much of their time in offices at lower elevations possibly judge this to be under threat?

It is correct that in the borderlands of Western Tibet, this plant becomes uncommon - though Aswal in 'Flora of Lahaul-Spiti' (1994) records it as common on alpine slopes, generally met in association with Betula utilis and Salix spp. @ Gramphoo to Dorni.  I have seen it in the Miyah Nullah and even on the Pensi La,
between the Suru Valley and Zanskar.  Once one reaches the more arid districts such as the Upper Indus Valley of Ladakh, the conditions are too extreme for it but then ALL species have geographic, altitudinal, climatic limits.  When at those limits, a species becomes uncommon and then rare.  This is a basic ecological and plant geographical principle - to misunderstand such simple science is alarming.  To use such occurrences as supposed evidence that a particular species is, overall, in any way 'rare', 'endangered', let alone 'critically so' (which actually means it is liable to become extinct) is a nonsense.  Since it appears few universities in India in one state are aware of the abundance or rarity of species in their state, let alone the bordering ones (or countries), a species may be rare there but common elsewhere.  International collaboration is ESSENTIAL, as is the training of field-botanists able to reliably identify plants when in the field. I know of very few field-botanists from the Indian sub-continent with such skills - making it impossible to assess actual rarity.  I could quote MANY examples of FALSE claims of rarity, which I have observed in the wild in vast quantity in numerous locations. Unless one can recognise species whilst in the field exploring on steep slopes, cliffs and amongst boulders, one CANNOT judge their occurrence.  PLANTS ARE NOT LIMITED TO ROAD-SIDES OR NEXT TO TRACKS ACCESSIBLE BY VEHICLES....

RHODODENDRON  ANTHOPOGON in the Upper Miyah Nullah on the border between Lahaul and Zanskar (part of Ladakh); the image was scanned in from a slide taken in the mid-1980s.  © Chris Chadwell

Lower surface of RHODODENDRON  ANTHOPOGON leaves in the Upper Miyah Nullah on the border between Lahaul and Zanskar (part of Ladakh); the image was scanned in from a slide taken in the mid-1980s.  © Chris Chadwell

I do not know who undertook the surveys or made such SILLY claims published in the above report....but to do so is very wrong. Utterly misleading.  WHAT ABOUT THE SPECIES WHICH REALLY ARE RARE AND PERHAPS GENUINELY ENDANGERED?  THEY HAVE BEEN IGNORED AND ABANDONED.  SO MUCH FOR THOSE PURPORTING TO BE CONCERNED ABOUT CONSERVATION.  THESE SO-CALLED SCIENTISTS CLEARLY KNOW NOTHING ABOUT HIMALAYAN FLORA.  WHY DON'T THEY CONSULT CHRIS CHADWELL?  THE TRUTH WOULD BE UNCOMFORTABLE.


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