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Wednesday, Aug 31, 2011 South Central China and Tibet: Hotspot of Diversity For over a century, Arboretum staff have explored and documented the natural and cultural resources of Asia. In 1924, a three-year expedition departed for one of the most unusual areas on earth—the first of many Arboretum expeditions to a region that is floristically one of the richest in the world. Seventy years later, other Arboretum expeditions returned to collect and inventory the flora. Today the Hengduan Mountain region, comprising western Sichuan and eastern Tibet (Xizang), is considered by international conservation organizations to be a hotspot of biodiversity, a term used to designate areas with a high number of endemic species (those found only in a single region) that are under severe threat of destruction due to human activities. Members of these expeditions returned to the Arboretum with seeds and live plants, dried herbarium specimens, stuffed birds, and images not only of plants but of people and landscapes as well. These web pages provide access to the natural history and ethnographic collections that resulted from these expeditions and are now held at Harvard University Herbaria, Museums, Libraries, and Archives. The digital format links these various repositories allowing students and scholars to move through time and within collections, accessing material that not only depicts the area’s natural and ecological resources, but also documents the social and cultural history of China and Tibet. 1924-1927 Expedition The first director of the Arboretum, Charles S. Sargent, sent plant explorers to Asia throughout his fifty-year tenure, and it was he who initiated Joseph Rock’s expedition in 1924. The Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology, seeking to acquire bird specimens from this area, cooperated in the project. Sargent directed Rock to collect and photograph plants and the landscape along the Yellow River (Huang He) and in two mountain ranges, the Amne Machin (Jishi Shan) and the Richthofen (Qilian Shan). Rock also collected along the Yangtze River, at the Gansu-Sichuan border, in the Tebbu region of southwestern Gansu, and around the Koko Nor (Qinghai Lake) in northeastern Tibet. The three-year expedition resulted in more than 20,000 herbarium specimens, over 1,000 bird specimens, several hundred packets of seeds, 653 photographs, and a correspondence between Rock and Sargent that exceeded 300 letters and telegrams. 1997, 1998, 2000 Expeditions Summer 1997, 1998: Western Sichuan Summer 2000: Southeastern Tibet In 1997, under the auspices of the Biotic Surveys and Inventory Program of the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Arnold Arboretum began a three-year program that brought together Chinese and American botanists and mycologists to inventory the plant and fungal diversity of the Hengduan Mountains. These expeditions resulted in the addition of 32,623 specimens, of which 7,970 were unique, of vascular plants, bryophytes, and fungi to the collections of the Harvard University Herbaria and of other herbaria worldwide. Other Arboretum-Supported Exploration in this Area Arboretum botanists exploring this region have included Ernest H. Wilson (1907-1911) and Shiu Ying Hu (1939-1940). Hu’s visit was especially significant because she was the first woman to enter what was at the time a bandit-infested part of China. Camillo Schneider of Germany, stranded in the Yunnan portion of the region upon the outbreak of World War I, collected specimens there for the Arboretum from 1914 to 1918. The Arboretum has also supported exploration by a number of Chinese botanists, yielding plant material from many species that were previously unknown here. Among the most important of the Chinese collectors were T. T. Yü, R. C. Ching, C. W. Wang, C. Wang, F. T. Wang, H. Wang, K. M. Feng, T. K. Wang, T. L. Hu, H. T. Tsai, C. Y. Chiao, S. C. Sun, and K. Chang. The Arboretum’s Hengduan collections also include herbarium material collected by French missionaries and explorers from the large European herbaria in Edinburgh, London, Paris, Leiden, Stockholm, Leningrad (St. Petersburg), Vienna, and, more recently, Tokyo. Last modified: November 15, 2010 | © 2011 The President and Fellows of Harvard College | privacy statement | Get Directions from Google
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