The catastrophic fires in Indonesia in the autumn have destroyed million of hectares of forest, particularly on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo. I was unfortunate enough to be in Singapore when the haze was bad enough to obscure all but the lower half dozen stories of the city's many skyscrapers. The increased frequency of the El Niño effect and consequent climate changes around the world suggests that matters might get worse unless action is taken by world leaders to cut fossil fuel emissions, pollution and the destruction of the wild. The effect of the current fires on the vegetation and orchids can only be imagined but, at the present rate, little primary lowland forest will be left in SE Asia by the end of the century, and much of the montane forest is now disappearing as well. Taxonomists' efforts to catalogue the rich tropical floras are all the more urgent. A knowledge of the flora and its distribution are prerequisites of any plan to protect what remains. Arguments that protecting forest might protect endangered species usually falls on deaf ears in political circles. Arguments based upon facts, that we need to protect endangered species in selected habitats where they are known to occur, stand a better (albeit still small) chance of being heard and acted upon. Orchids are charismatic plants and can be used to help conserve the world's remaining natural habitats. I hope that the IUCN Specialist Orchid Group (OSG), using the Orchid Action Plan as a basis, can help in this task, but its future is still uncertain unless funding can be raised to maintain a small secretariat. The American Orchid Society has graciously offered $12,500 for the first year providing matching funding can be raised. To date this has not been achieved, and the OSG is still in limbo. If you have any suggestions or would like to help, please contact Wendy Strahm at IUCN Headquarters, Gland, Switzerland.

The Orchid Herbarium at Kew is in the throes of a major expansion which will effective increase space by about a third. It will also reunite the orchid library and herbarium to provide an ideal working environment for staff and visitors. Currently conditions are less than desirable with workmen all over the place and the heating and electricity supplies subject to frequent cuts. If you are contemplating visiting Kew, I would urge you to delay coming until next autumn to allow us time to reorganize the collections.

Lasianthera, another orchid journal, hit the stands this year. It is published by the Papua New Guinea Orchid Society and is devoted mainly to the orchids of New Guinea and the surrounding region. The editor, Justin Tlachetko, would be pleased to receive articles from potential authors. A number of interesting orchids are described and illustrated in the first two issues. The standards of printing and colour reproduction in these are of an excellent standard.

The editors would like to wish readers a happy New Year. The future of ORN is currently secure but would be more so if readers contributed more. Notes and short articles would be welcome. We are particularly interested in publishing accounts of new or refined techniques used, for example, in curation or taxonomic research.

Phillip Cribb

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Last Updated September 3, 1998.
© Copyright The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.