About this Project

The Republic of Uzbekistan is one of the five Central Asian countries and one of worldwide two double land locked countries. With the Soviet Union collapse the long and intensive scientific history interrupted, its institutions disappeared, lost its economic and educational fundament and in the consequence fell behind international development in sciences in general. This is certainly true for the environmental and natural sciences among others botany. The Institute of the Gene Pool of Plants and Animals of the Uzbek Academy of Sciences (IGPPA) has been lacking sufficient resources to support junior scientists, to conduct expeditions and investigations, to attend international conferences and influence an international or regional scientific debate over the last 25 years. However over the last years new and promising developments are characterizing the IGPPA. A new young and enthusiastic director started to support its employees, invested into education, capacity building of a young generation of botanists and ecologist. A lot of new publications with a russian speaking scientific auditorium appeared and several international scientific cooperations have been emerged, among others with South Korea (Korea National Arboretum, Kongju National University), China (Instiute of Botany in Kunming) the USA (Missouri Botanical Garden), Russia Federation (Institute of Botany in St. Petersburg) and Germany. Greifswald University, facilitated by Michael Succow Foundation established a scientific cooperation programme in botanical sciences. Expeditions to remote areas of Uzbekistan and botanical field surveys were conducted jointly, publications got prepared.
The territory of Uzbekistan is characterized by biological and landscape diversity. There were identified centers of wild relatives of current important crop cultures. The flora of Uzbekistan consists of at least 4,350 species of native vascular plants, including a large number of economically valueable species, wild relatives, endemic, threatened and globally important species. About 400 species have been identified as national endemic. A big share of that species belongs to monocots, including wild relatives of cereals, important feed species, many medicinal aromatic plants as well as ornamental plants, like tulips, irises, eremuruses, onions, orchidea.
Uzbekistan is the most populated country in the Central Asia. The problem of desertification and degradation of natural ecosystems has become an very critical issue in Central Asia. In the last decades the impact of human activities to the environment increased significantly. In the conditions of Uzbekistan excessive livestock breeding, clear-cutting of trees and shrubs, reclamation of large areas for irrigated agriculture and dry farming, minerals extraction, construction, uncontrolled collection of medical and other economic valuable plants, “wild” recreation – are the most negative impacts to the natural flora and vegetation cover. Illegal international trade of wild species takes place in the country as well. Many species and biotopes are threatened especially medicinal aromatic plants, food and ornamental plants are intensively used by local population. The plants quite often are used in unsustainable way and government doesn’t have actual data of current distribution of may important species. Ferghana valley, valley of Zarafshan river, Khorezm and Tashkent oases, Hunger Steppe almost lost their natural ecosystems. And this even did not touch the implications of the increasing relevance of climate change. The proposed project will enable us to begin to assess the actual condition of the vegetation diversity and to analyze the ongoing changes, to identify the hot spots of most valuable plants (Important Plants Areas (IPAs)), to evaluate the condition of endemics and rare species according to IUCN criteria, to develop precise recommendations on the vegetation cover conservation, especially endemics, rare and relict species.
An overwhelming amount of information about the flora of Uzbekistan is available as result of 176 years of intensive investigation by a national and international scientific community. Most of existing data are from 60-80s last century in hard copy, including monographies, scientific reports and collection of Central Herbarium of Uzbekistan (TASH). With more than 1.5 million herbarium samples that reach back from field surveys until 1840 the TASH comprises the largest herbarium collection on Central-Asian species worldwide and one of the largest herbarium in Asia. Many of the records have never been touched again and degrade in quality with the time passing by. It is time to lift the unique treasure existing and make it open and publically available for a broad community from scientist to amateurs.
Nowadays the non-existence of a consistent digital source of available information on the plants diversity of Central Asia is a serious shortcome in practical work of nature conservation organizations, protected area staff, as well as for monitoring, and scientific purposes. Lack of unified information data base of flora doesn’t allow to manage plant species effectively. State Committee for Nature Protection of Uzbekistan every year sets quotas for economically valueable wild species, but there is no adequate and current data for that. That is why overharvesting of some species takes place.
There are about 750 species that are adapted to extreme arid and saline environmental conditions that have been identified to have relevant economic value for mankind. There are many cereals (monocotyledonous) that are perfectly adapted to these harsh climatic condictions that need to become rescued for future generations. The project proposed here has the support of the government of the Republic of Uzbekistan. The TASH, as a unique institution receives annually a governemental financing support. But additional funds are necessary to transfer the huge amount of information on the flora of Uzbekistan into an electronic format, to teach botanists, to work with database software and web server maintenance, to conduct expeditions into insufficiently investigated areas of Uzbekistan. A successful realization of the project demands the cooperation with leading specialists in the area of geobotany, database establishment and IT infrastructure. Scientists of Greifswald University, have proven vast experiences in exactly these research topics when a virtual herbarium of the flora of Mongolia has been established (floragreif.uni-greifswald.de/).
Core target groups of the project are the State Committee For Nature Protection, State Cadastral Services, zapovedniks and national parks administrations, forestry staff, people involved in ecological audit and monitoring, scientific organizations, universities, colleges, schools as well as environmental NGOs, UN bodies and international nature conservation and development agencies, professional and amateur botanists, plant taxonomists and last but not least eco tourists.