Wet Tropics: Southeast Asia: key achievements 2006 - 2011
The Wet Tropics: Southeast Asia (WTSA) Team seeks to develop an improved understanding plants and fungi of Southeast Asia and the Pacific through a multi-disciplinary and collaborative approach with local stakeholders and counterparts.
The WTSA Team is based around the core of the Southeast Asia and Pacific regional team in HLAA but includes members from throughout Kew, including several systematic team members running high-profile taxonomic projects in the region, as well as several honorary research associates in the Herbarium working on taxonomic projects. The Southeast Asia and Pacific Regional Team curates a large amount of specimens in the Herbarium and names incoming material (up to 3000 specimens a year), so that new determinations are sent back to host institutes, thus nurturing and developing collaborative links.
The Team has been instrumental in developing and maintaining collaboration in the region in the form of training, repatriation of data from herbarium specimens, naming of material, provision of historic literature, specialist taxonomic accounts and assistance in sourcing and securing external funding for collaborative projects. The Team has been successful in securing and participating in several Darwin Initiative grants including Papua Plant Diversity, Trees of Southern Thailand, Reforestation of Lowland Forest in Sumatra, and Biodiversity of Sustainable Forests in East Sabah.
Collaborative fieldwork has been regularly conducted, including trips to Vietnam, Papua New Guinea, Malaysia (Sabah and Sarawak), Thailand, Indonesia (Papua, Sumatra and Timor). Recently, the Team has undertaken a more focused fieldwork and research programme to understand and explore the tropical island of New Guinea, building on the successful Vogelkop and Mt Jaya projects (checklist published in 2006).
Kew is perceived as being a major player in the provision of baseline taxonomic and conservation data, and the WTSA Team has played an active role in nurturing botanical networks and scientists in-country. Training programmes have included plant identification courses (Thailand, Malaysia, Bali) and plant collecting and herbarium technique courses (Papua, Timor and Sumatra), as well as hosting young scientists from the region at Kew (for example, Charlie Heatubun from Indonesia, Avelinah Julius from Malaysia and Oliver Paul from Papua New Guinea).
Systematic research in the past has focused mainly on several eudicot groups (e.g. Elaeocarpaceae, Menispermaceae, Nepenthes, Loranthaceae, Aquifoliaceae, Antidesma, Austrobuxus). Currently, research is ongoing in many groups especially monocotyledons (aroids, bamboos, orchids, palms, sedges, yams; e.g., see Grasses of Thailand and Palms of New Guinea projects), and many eudicot groups including Primulaceae (Myrsinoideae), Lamiaceae, Urticaceae, Actinidiaceae, and icacs (formerly Icacinaceae, now split into several families sensu APG III, 2009).
Other research focuses on provision of user-friendly identification guides, in either electronic or book form, and training courses both in the region and at Kew. Field guides to be published as books will include Plants of East Sabah, Palms of New Guinea, Trees of Southern Thailand and an identification guide to commonly encountered Tropical Plant Families. In addition to hard-copy resources, online products are being developed, such as PalmWeb, and the successful Interactive Key to the Malesian Seed Plants published on the web and in CD-ROM format, will be enlarged to include Thailand and Indo-China.
Activity by the WTSA Team covers Breathing Planet Progamme strategies, primarily 1 but also in a more limited way 2 and 3.
Conferences and workshops
Flora projects throughout the region hold regular conferences and Team members attend and present at these, including Flora Malesiana and Flora of Thailand. In addition team members have attended and presented other regular botanical conferences such as International Botanical Congress and the Systematics Association.
Flora Malesiana 2010 – over ten presentations from the Team; visit of Princess Sirindhorn in 2011 – Kew staff presented a range of projects to the Princess focusing on Flora of Thailand.
The Team provides taxonomic expertise to the Conventions and Policies Team/UK CITES authority, for example, understanding taxonomy of the genus Gonystylus (Thymelaeaceae) – the source of ramin timber.
The Team also contributes to the GSPC – through provision of taxonomic data, including new species and conservation assessments.
Science Team Leader: Tim M. A. Utteridge
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