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(Bio) Biodiversity: Nature: Still the Best Provider of Cures
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 21, 2005 7:41 pm    Post subject: (Bio) Biodiversity: Nature: Still the Best Provider of Cures Reply with quote

Nature: Still the best provider of cures
STAR SCIENCE By Gisela Padilla-Concepcion, Ph.D.
The Philippine STAR 12/22/2005

We know that there is a high incidence of infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria and AIDS in our country, and drug resistance to currently used drugs is a major concern. I think that the long-term control of TB, malaria and AIDS should involve the use of local natural resources, local human samples, and local health scientists and health workers. The Philippines can provide two major sources of novel molecules that can be explored for developing new anti-infective therapies. These are the rich biodiversity of lower life forms and the large number of human disease samples. The Philippines could benefit directly from therapeutic products developed from these sources. Filipino patients would gain direct access to the treatment, which would be affordable and suited to their particular form of the disease.

The Philippines’ terrestrial and marine biodiversity could yield novel compounds with potent anti-TB, anti-malarial, and anti-viral activity. Over the last 50 years, more than 80 percent of all antibiotics and anti-infective drugs were developed from compounds isolated from terrestrial plants and land-based microorganisms. Up to the present, marine organisms have been explored largely or only for cancer and other diseases that are important in developed countries. Because marine bioprospecting is a costly and difficult undertaking, it is pursued principally to yield high-value therapeutic products such as anti-cancer drugs.

Philippine marine biodiversity is the third highest in the world. It should now be explored as a source of new anti-infective compounds to help treat TB, malaria and AIDS, aside from cancer. The Philippine government has passed a law to regulate scientific studies and commercial bioprospecting of biological and genetic materials, and this law is now being enforced with simpler implementing rules and regulations.

There are already thousands of marine natural products reported in the literature over the last 30 years, including some compounds isolated from Philippine marine organisms. These are compiled in several databases abroad. These compounds should be reviewed, requested from laboratories abroad and screened for anti-infective properties. Their chemical structures could be evaluated, modeled and modified to fit and bind the known molecular targets associated with the TB, malaria and HIV pathogens.

The Philippines has another rich resource useful for TB, malaria and AIDS research – human disease samples. Clinical isolates could be a source of new strains or forms of the pathogens, and thus a source of new antigens and molecular targets. The new antigens could be the basis for designing new vaccines. The new molecular targets would be used to find new small molecule drugs. Samples from patients who have the disease in various forms and stages, and samples from patients who have recovered or are asymptomatic, with or without drug treatment, are potential sources of new therapeutic molecules. Survivors must have produced some antibodies and other proteins, and probably some small molecules, in their bodies to combat the disease. These molecules would be associated with the particular form of the disease, the strain of the pathogen, the genetic make-up of the patients, and would thus be most useful for the community or population from which they were obtained.

In order to collect human samples, the patient’s informed consent should be obtained. The patients should also be provided monetary compensation. It is important that the research conducted should follow strict bioethical principles and should be performed under utmost caution, using the highest-level containment facilities (P3 level). The health and safety of the researchers must be ensured. However, while diagnostic and therapeutic products can be developed using novel biomolecules obtained from the disease samples, the Philippines is not yet very competitive in this area due to limited capabilities in molecular biology and biotechnology. A thorough characterization of the new antigens and molecular targets would also require capabilities in the field of proteomics.

The small molecule or metabolite profile (metabolomics) of human samples obtained from various stages, forms and treatment of the disease could indicate the particular physiological state of the individual and his response to the pathogen. A human survivor would have metabolites which could act as important signals (inhibitors or activators) of mechanisms which may be critical in overcoming the disease or keeping it at a residual level. Sensitive analytical methods such as mass spectrometry are now available for detecting such small molecules in biological samples over a period of time. Metabolomics could contribute to modeling metabolic pathways which are affected in disease progression and regression. This then could form the basis of finding new natural small molecule drugs. (It is interesting to note that many of the classical anti-cancer drugs used today are DNA topoisomerase 2 or topo 2 inhibitors isolated or developed from plants and microorganisms, and yet small molecule topo 2 inhibitors from humans, which probably exist in normal cells in order to regulate the structure and function of human topo 2, have not been found and explored as models of anti-cancer drugs.)

It is not surprising that Nature provides us the best source of bioactive small molecules. These molecules, which have specialized functions in the source organisms, are products of a natural selection process that has been occurring throughout evolution. These compounds could be used in their natural form or can be chemically modified to produce new effective drugs for human health.

Since small molecule drugs are still the cheaper and more affordable drugs for TB, malaria and AIDS, I believe that research in this field should be pursued in our country. If necessary, we should collaborate with foreign laboratories that can transfer to us more advanced technologies. In the past, I had proposed that the Philippine government should set up a National TB (Natural Products) Drug Discovery and Development Program that it would support in a substantial way. To assist in the funding, foreign foundations would be invited to support the program. Foreign experts would be invited to help advance technology here. With the government’s bioprospecting regulations in place, this program would be feasible and could bring in a lot of funding and training for research on natural products, drug discovery and development. Further, the products developed could undergo pre-clinical and clinical trials in the Philippines.

The proposed initiative focuses on scientific and technological innovations. But the success of health prevention, diagnostic and therapeutic programs in a country depends not only on the potential to find and develop new drugs but also on the participation of key individuals and agencies in effective scientific research and education programs, health care and community service programs. The cooperation of various sectors of the health and science community in our country will translate into greater national self-reliance in dealing with public health problems, such as infectious diseases, in the long term. * * *
Gisela Padilla-Concepcion, Ph.D. in Chemistry, is an associate professor at the UP Marine Science Institute, Diliman, Quezon City, where she teaches graduate courses and heads the Marine Natural Products Research Group. E-mail her at

Related Lessons (Elementary Level);DocID=395

Questions to explore further this topic:

What is tuberculosis?

What is malaria?

What is AIDS?

What is biodiversity?

Which regions of the world have been identified as biodiversity hotspots?

What are the biodiversity statistics in the Philippines?



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PostPosted: Tue Feb 14, 2006 8:44 pm    Post subject: Indigenous peoples slam bio-prospecting Reply with quote

Indigenous peoples slam bio-prospecting
First posted 06:32am (Mla time) Feb 15, 2006
By Maurice Malanes

THE gene technology, which the industrialized world sees as the “wave of the future,” may be something new. But for many indigenous and local peoples from five continents, who were in Granada, Spain, recently to help shape an international system on access to and benefit-sharing from biodiversity resources, it is just a new, sophisticated tool of the more powerful countries to replay old colonial ways of appropriating the resources of weaker countries.

“Through bio-prospecting, if not outright bio-piracy, proponents of the gene technology have been setting their eyes on our resources,” Datu Victorino Saway of the indigenous Talaandig in Bukidnon told the Inquirer.

“This (bio-prospecting) is all about exploiting resources as has been the case since the colonial era,” he said.

Bio-prospecting is the exploration, extraction and screening of biological diversity for commercially valuable and biochemical resources such as medicines or a certain gene.

Saway was among indigenous and local folk from Asia, the Pacific, Africa, Latin America, North America and Europe who gathered in Granada on Jan. 30-Feb. 3 as one voice through the United Nations-accredited International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity.

They came to help intervene in the fourth meeting of the working group on access and benefit-sharing of the Convention on Biological Diversity. Some 450 participants from governments, UN agencies, indigenous and local community groups, the academe and industry attended.

Born out of the 1992 Rio de Janiero Earth Summit in Brazil, the convention, which has 188 parties, aims “to promote the conservation of biodiversity, the sustainable use of its components, and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the use of genetic resources.”

Some countries, like the Philippines, instituted in recent years some bio-prospecting agreements to help regulate bio-prospecting.


But with the lack of public information and awareness about bio-prospecting, many source communities and countries cannot effectively monitor or enforce bio-prospecting regulations, if any, leading to bio-piracy or the outright theft of biodiversity resources, said the Canada-based Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration.

The industrialized world has the edge in gene technology, but it doesn’t have the raw materials, much of which still abound in developing or least developed countries.

While states are seeking to establish an international system to regulate and govern access to and equitable benefit-sharing from genetic resources, cases of bio-prospecting and bio-piracy, mostly in indigenous and local communities, continue.

Saway, for example, cited the case of government researchers in 1995 who “intruded” into the Talaandig community to gather plant specimens without getting the consent of the community.

Fortunately, says Saway, the people have a customary protocol penalizing those who encroach into the community without the permission of elders.

As punishment, the government researchers were told to provide the community with eight carabaos, 26 chickens, eight square meters each of red, white and black cloths, and P150 in coins.

“[It] was actually the Talaandig people’s way of asserting their right to self-rule,” Saway said.

Other indigenous peoples have presented cases of bio-piracy by pharmaceutical firms allied with universities or governments, which targeted medicinal plants, including certain animals, whose traditional uses have long been part of indigenous folk knowledge.

Indigenous and local communities from various countries have thus pushed for an international system that will guarantee respect for their rights to their territories and resources.

Igorot leader Lourdes Amos of the Thailand-based Asian Indigenous Peoples’ Pact stressed on the first day of the meeting a “rights-based” system.

Reading an IIFB statement, Amos said any international system must respect and recognize indigenous peoples’ “rights to self-determination and their corresponding right of permanent sovereignty over our lands and natural resources.”

Amos said the right to “free and prior informed consent” and “the right to say no or deny access to our knowledge and resources” are subsumed in the indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination.
Biodiversity held Jan. 30-Feb. 3 in Granada, Spain.
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 06, 2006 9:11 pm    Post subject: BIODIVERSITY, CONSERVATION, COOPERATION IN THE PHILIPPINES Reply with quote

APAMS meeting
PAASE Newsletter (September 2005)

Population growth has been the key index to biodiversity loss. According
to Conservation International, an environmental organization based in
Washington,D.C., forty percent of all threatened species live in the
Philippines, Australia, New Zealand, China, Europe, South America, and
Africa. These countries are considered biodiversity hotspots. In the
Philippines, 67 per cent of the animal species are endemic or native
to the region of Cebu. It is difficult to provide conservation measures to
protect and preserve threatened species, which at the same time are
being utilized for food, agriculture, industry, economics, and for
various other reasons. At the same time, these same species continue to
be subjected to pollution, environmental degradation, and man’s
continuous quest for a place to live which ultimately leads to
destruction of the environment. Additionally, activities such as logging,
commercialization of ornamental plant species, slush-burned agriculture,
all contribute to the dwindling of plant and animal species which
due to lack of conservation measures, would also result in the dwindling
of still unidentified plant and yet to be discovered animal/plant species.
This meeting showcased the status of biodiversity, conservation
measures, and cooperation in teaching and research. Participants
through oral and presented papers show what is the state of this

The Philippines being situated in one of the centers of marine biodiversity
has been considered the hottest of the hotspots (Alino: Tutorial-125).
Alino further said that it would take 100 years to reach 10% full
protection. Utilization of bioeconomic models and ecosystem based
approach together with education are few of the ways that would
maintain and sustain the country’s marine flora and fauna. For sustainable
development, L. Cruz ( Poster: 120) pointed out the incorporation of
conservation into the curriculum a course that would help develop
awareness and concern for biodiversity and conservation in rural
communities. Through pilot runs of the course, the students obtained
feedback from the community, while the community obtained the
knowledge and skills from the hands on experience they obtained from
participating students. Philippine soils are rich in minerals and continue
to sustain to this day the country’s rich natural flora and fauna. Man’s
application of agricultural practices has resulted in the rise of invasive
species which become uncontrollable, and can only be eliminated with the
use of pesticides and herbicides. Thus a chemical warfare has been going
on from rice growing regions to corn harvesting and tobacco, and abaca
agricultures of lands as well, as well as warfare in the seas
(formaldehyde is used to harness tropical fishes). The loss of our native
species is evidently cruel, and is worsened by hunger, malnutrition, and
political corruption, all contributing to one very unsustainable Earth.

There are ongoing research partnerships in which local medical and
science universities are working together to save the Tullahan River, a
27-km waterway and to ensure it for sustainable development.
The river water from all sites was found to be highly mutagenic, but at
the same time revealed the presence and sufficient number of zoo and
phyto-planktons (Daguplo, et. al. 70-71).

Where agricultural sector is recognized as the primary steward of the
nation’s natural resources (Espiritu, R., et. Al :71), the greatest leverage
for change and improvement in rice, Oriza sativa spp. is the
establishment of an Environmental Management System (EMS). The
Philippines is known for having a rich variety of rice species which are
being researched on at the International Rice Research Institute. The
poster paper of Espiritu, R., et. al. (Integration of EM in the RD
Management of Philippine Rice (P1-11:71) briefly presented how EM and
PhilRice is committed to sound environmental policies toward
sustainable development in agriculture. To develop economically viable
rice hybrids a cytoplasmic-genetic male sterility (CMS) line must be
tapped (Pacada:72) to produce and identify heterotic F 1 combinations, a
hybrid which is vulnerable to pests and diseases. Pacada and others are
using micro-satellite markers to determine the genetic relationship
among lines used in hybrid rice breeding in the Philippines.

Majority of the papers presented utilized the latest in molecular
methodologies. Phylogenetic analysis using molecular bioassay can prove
and revise the taxonomic classification of the family Rutaceae,
subfamily Aurantioideae (citrus family) (Panes, et. al.: 73).

At this meeting, some of these plants and animals indigenous to the
Philippines and nowhere else in the world were discussed as rich sources
of chemicals to combat cancer. The Forests of Mt. Makiling and Mt.
Banahaw were mentioned as research stations of the different colleges
and universities. The use of neutrachemicals from the different parts of
plant species was explored. There was an overwhelming number of
papers on biotechnology and natural products. Excellent presentations in
the area of natural products revealed that the Philippines remains to be a
very rich source of anti-cancer compounds as well as new
pharmacological agents that could be tapped as sources for new
therapeutic compounds. In this conference, researches using germplasm
studies using natural products from animals and plants clearly
demonstrate the latest important discoveries in pharmacology,
chemistry, and medicine of some of the important substances which have
important pharmacological, medicinal, nutritional, and many more
neutrichemical values. I have arranged and listed the species studied by
the various investigators as presented in their respective abstracts of
their curative/medicinal values, including the scientific and common
names, which were lacking in some of the submitted papers. To name a
few are:

Tiesa - extracted from Pouteria campechiana which is believed to be an
anti-mitotic compound. Known as eggfruit or sapote astringent bark is
taken as a febrifuge in Mexico and applied on skin eruptions.

A preparation of the seeds has been employed as a remedy for ulcer. C.
Hernandez (PAR2F-1:60) successfully isolated a stilbenoid from the
leaves extract. Apparently, the compound was “found in the primary
screen affecting cell cycle progression of synchronized HeLa cells and
determined to be a microtubule effector in the secondary screen.” Forty
percent of the sponge cellular volume contains an enormous amount of
microorganisms. The marine sponge Halisarca contains chemicals that
can be used against gram + and cocci organisms belonging to
Streptococcus pyogenes and S. aureus (I. J. Jao, P3-6: 86).
Sponges have adopted toxins as a main line of defense against grazing
fishes and immobile invertebrates. The production of these toxic
chemicals (Genthe, H. 1998.Smithsonian Magazine, 52) act as
an “invisible shield to keep predators (or marine biology students) at
bay.” and rich source of biomedical agents. I.Uy with B. Olivera, V.
Monje, and G. Concepcion (see P2-9:82 and P2-10:83)

Natural products can be synthesized from turrids and sponge species
(Geronimo, R. , et. al. (P2-3:79). (Go, et. al. PAR2F-2:61and Elardo, et.
al PAR2F-3:61). Marine sponges (Dysidea sp.) collected in Cagayan de
Oro showed significant tumor cytotoxicity (Mangalindan, G. et. al. (P2-
7:81) and in R. Geronimo et. al.P204:79).

Turrids - contain neuroactive pepto constituents. Cytotoxic brominates
diphenyl-ether were extracted from sponges. Toxins were extracted from
Conus batheon spp.(I.D.Uy, et. al.P2-1083). Sponge-associated
microorganisms in sponges provide the promise of new pharmacological
agents (See S. Elardo et. al.PAR2F-3:61). The authors discussed
bioactive metabolites that are antiboitoic and antitoxic properties. We
have here researchers that are made possible on simple bioassay
procedures on a shoestring budget and first class revolutionary
discoveries from species harnessed from the ocean that need to be
restored back to its pristine condition and overly exploited and damaged
resources. Chalcone from Syzygrum samarangense (macopa) - has
prolyl endopeptidase inhibitory and spasmolyticactivity (E. C. Amor et. al.

Hesperidin methyl chalcone - an ingredient found in the citrus family
Plants from family Brassicaceae tend to absorb heavy metals from the
soil and are used for soilbioremediation.

Achuete’s (Bixa Orellana) - extract from fresh leaves has diuretic power
(J. Rabe, M. Tan, and D. Roma P3-9:88 )

Actinomycetes in soils - have anti tumor and antibiotic properties

Aloe vera (sabila) - anti-inflammatory activity of the amino acid, including
steroids and lipids (J. Dalman et. al. P3-3:84)

Annona squamosa (atis), Sarcandra, and Hibiscus - have chemo-
preventive properties

Annona muricata (guyabano) Muntigia calabura (aratiles) - mutagenic and
antimutagenic properties (A. Lopez, et. al. P3-7:87).

Annona squamosa (atis) and Hibiscus rosa sinensis (gumamela) cancer
chemo preventive properties®. Dator et. al. P3-4:85)

Cassia alatum - and its medicinal value (See V. Tolentino et. al. P1-22:77).

Coconut - glucoamylase also extracted from Aspergillus

Coriander sativum (cilantro, chamomile spp.)

Chines or garlic chives or nira, Lactuca rosa

Cucurbita maxima (squash) antipyretic activity in the mesocarp of this
species and other species ,specifically because of its flavonoid contents
(Tecson P9-12:90)

Elephantus scaber (dila-dila) - diuretic activity of Sesquiterpenes sp.on
albino male rats (A. Flores et. al. and R. Dator et. al P3-5:56).

Plant species belonging to the Euphorbiaceae have its anti-oxidant
properties. Euphorbiaceae (includescroton, castor, poinsettia, and rubber
plants) - Anti-oxidant properties of crude ethanol extract -
hypoglycemic pump

Ganoderma applananthus (a bracket fungi) reported here as a first study
on angiotensin

Guyabano and aratilis’ mutagenic and anti-mutagenic activities on mice
(F. Teves et. al. P3-15:9)

Luffa acutangulla (patola) can induc hyperglycemia in albino mice (E.
Quero, R, Sy, and V. SumalinogP3-8:88 )

Patolas’s (Trichosanthes lobata) induced hypoglycemic activity against
alloxan-induced hyperglycemic mice

Phylanthus niruri - crude extract from thi s plant species (family
Euphorbiaceae) shows effect on hypoglycemia A. Aquino, et. Al. P4-
1:93). The anti tumor diabody Fcy demonstrate that it has potential for
therapeutic and diagnostic purposes against human carcinomas from
Pichia pastoris

Pichia pastoris - a yeast for anti-tumor antibody, human carcinomas *
(see M. K.Canlas et. Al P4-2:94).

Plant samples -cytotoxin isolate and its importance on breast cancer line

Plant extracts - methanol, a substances that can be used against asthma
using guinea pig models

Pomelo (Citrus grandis) - dried leaves have anti-inflammatory efficacy
(Tanangsy et. al. P3-11:89)

Pouteria campechiana - stelbenoid - from the leaves are good source for
screening cell cycle progress of Hela cells

Unidentified citrus species belonging to the family Rutaceae - cytotoxic
isolate (L. Salvador et. al. P9-10:89)

An actinomycete, Saccharopolyspora shows antibacterial activity. — would
be an answer to the alarming problem of antibiotic resistance and
emergence of new diseases. It is hopefully believe that these
substances will provide a supply of new therapeutic compounds for its
Anti-tumor and antibiotic properties. Additionally, soil actinomycetes in
this study also show anti tumor and antibiotics form (See F. Teves et. al

Saccharopolyspora - an actinomycete with powerful antibacterial activity
- Aspergillus and glucoamylase

Basidiomycetes - disease causing decay of Philippine Dipterocarps
(Tadiosa, E, and E. Militante, PAR1H-2:45).

Soy and barley species contain a cancer preventive peptide named
lunasin by de Lumen and other research investigators from U of Berkeley

Strawberry fruits and leaves of corriander, red coral, lettuce and chives -
anti-skin tumor neutraceuticals

Squash - anti-pyretic activity, and its flavonoid concentration

Other plant species with proven anti-inflammatory activity can be
obtained from the following species:

Albizia - Family Leguminosaea (Mimosa or the sensitive plant) (See M.
Alumpang and M. Ysrael P3-2:84)
Chisoscheton - Family Meliaceae (Sandoricum sp. [santol species])(See
M. Alumpang and M. Ysrael P3-2:84)
Drypetes - Family Diterocarpa
Evodia - Family Rutaceae (See M. Alumpang and M. Ysrael P3-2:84)
Freycinetia (pandan) (See M. Alumpang and M. Ysrael P3-2:84)
Ixorathus (Santan) in I petiolaris ((See M. Alumpang and M. Ysrael P3-
Kibara - Family Monomeaceae in K. Coriacea (See M. Alumpang and M.
Ysrael P3-2:84)

At this meeting, two papers focused on conservation and ethics in natural
products resources. These two papers present important issues that
confront educators, scientists, political leaders, NGO on a daily basis:
exploitation, exploration, and researches of the nation’s natural
resources - proper Ethical Boards to ensure safety use of herbal drugs
(from manufacturing to marketing)[See Fernando, E. PS2D:58. It was
suggested that the Philippines volunteer itself to the major multinational
drug companies so as to provide for them theservices of testing these
drugs for the world market (Ibid.), and Cruz, L. P9-4:120) study that
delve on the need for a holistic approach to save the environment. Cruz’
paper on conservation may be the only paper that gives an alarming call
to the dwindling resources from dipterocarp trees to the biodiverse
species of phyto and zooplanktons in the coral reefs. Geronimo, R. , et.
al. (P2-3:79) admitted that “lagging behind the researches in marine
natural products, bioprospecting are the ecological functions of these
extrcated compounds, - an important but much less openly advocated
cause of biodiversity conservation.” The authors highlighted how these
studies could link scientific inquiry, conservation management, including
societal uses of products derived from turrids and sponges. The case
studies on children suffering from Vitamin A deficiency in rural Philippine
communities (See Ribaya-Mercado, J. and Solon, F. PAR2B-1:53), argued
that plants species rich in vitamin A and plant species that can prevent
anemia and malnutrition among Filipino children are significantly
diminishing in the environment. To improve iron status of anemic school
children in Compostela, Cebu, for example, a study to fortify pandesal
with 3 types of iron fortification, and intervention methods successfully
improved the iron status of the children (Solon-F., et. al. PAR2B-3:54).

There were very few papers at this meeting that examined relationships
between organisms and their environment (organismic biology),
indicative of little interest in basic ecological principles, which is
unfortunate because such principles are very important in understanding
species diversity loss.

Some of the substances that were obtained naturally in plants that are
presently utilized in the removal of heavy metals in soils are present in
the following families of plants :

Brassicaceae and Chlorophyceae (Chlorella).
Neutraceutical substances can be obtained from strawberry fruit and
leaves of Coriander, red coral, lettuce, and chives. They are proven
effective on mouse tumor cells (I. Villasnor et. al. P3-17:93)

Soils - CO2 stored in the soils by glomalin - discovered as a glue like
compound that is excreted by mycorrhizal fungi throughout the root
zone. It binds soil particles and is used to assess soil quality and
management impacts on soil.

Marine invertebrates:
Blomia tropicalis - dust mite which is a major source of (Bt) allergen
(Ramos, J., C. Nge and C. YanPAR1A- 3:34)

Jellyfish Aequorea victoria
Gemmula - neuroactive peptide constituents that targets on the central
nervous system, sensory and autonomic nervous system (D. Tianero et.
al. P3-15:91)

Victoria C. Guerrero-Abellera, Editor
Glossary of Terms
Doreen G. Fernandez. 2000. Palayok: Philippine Food Time, On Site, in the Pot.
Manila: Bookmark Inc.
atswete Bixa orellana, annato seed; also called lipstick plant
ampalaya Momordica charantia, bittermelon or bitter gourd
anonas Annona reticulata, custard apple, bullock heart
aratiles Muntingia calabura, a little cherry-like wild fruit
atis Annona squamosa, sugar apple
balimbing Averrhoa carambola, star fruit, carambola
bayabas Psidium guajava, guava
camachille Pithecellobium dulce, kamachille, Madras thorn fruit
camote Ipomoea batatas, sweet potato
chico Manilkara zapote, a brown sweet fruit with black seeds
bawang Allium sativum, the leaves of the garlic plant
dayap Citrus aurantifolia, lime
dilao, dilaw Curcuma domestica, turmeric
duhat Syzygium kumini, Java plum
durian Durio zybethinus, a fruit with a strong smell
gabi Colocasia esculenta, taro root
guyabano Annona muricata, soursop
kadyos Cadjanus cadjan, pigeon pea
kaimito Caimito chrusophillum caimito, star apple
kalamansi Citrus madurensis, a small lime indigenous to the Philippines;
also called Chinese orange, Panama orange
kangkong Ipomoea aquatica, swamp cabbage, also called potato vine
kasuy Anacardium occidentale, cashew
katuray Sesbania grandiflora, a white flower used in salads
kinchay Apium graveolens, Chinese celery
kolis Pisonia alba, lettuce tree, also called maluko in Tagalog
kulitis Amaranthus viridis, slender amaranth
kundol Benicasa hispida, wax gourd
kutsay Allium odorum, Chinese chives
Llagundi Vitex negundo, a medicinal plant
lanzones Lansium domesticum, a small fruit that grows in bunches, with
translucent flesh in segments enclosing seeds
marang Artocarpus odoratissima, a large aromatic fruit containing
segments each enclosing a see
munggo Phaseolus aureus, green mung bean
mustasa Brassica juncea v. integrifola, mustard greens
pako Arthyrium esculentum, edible fern
pandan Pandanus odoratissimus, screw pine
pansit-pansitan Peperomia pellucida, a scculent herb, the leaves of which
have medicinal properties
patola Luffa cylindrica, sponge gourd
petsay Brassica chinesis, pakchoy, bokchoy
pili Canarium ovatum, a hard nut indigenous to the Philippines, with an oil-
rich kernel
saluyot Corchorus olitorius, Jew's mallow
santol Sandoricum koetjape, a fruit with a thick rind and pulp enclosing
whitish, furry seeds, sour-sweet in taste
sayote Sechium edule, chayote, mirliton pear
sili Capsicum annuum, chili
singkamas Pachyrrhizus erosus, yambean
tabon-tabon Hydrophytune orbiculatum, a fruit, the juice of which is used
in kinilaw, and for finishing baskets
tanglad Cymbopogon citratus, lemon grass
toge, togue mung bean sprouts
upo Lagenaria leucantha, bottle gourd
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 30, 2006 8:08 am    Post subject: Biodiversity conservation Reply with quote

United Nations University
29 March 2006

Biodiversity conservation may help reduce the impacts of natural disasters – UNU

As ministers meet at the Eighth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP-Cool, the United Nations University (UNU) urges governments to incorporate the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) findings in national planning processes and poverty reduction strategies to promote ecosystem services that may help reduce the extreme effects of natural disasters.
In a special address delivered at the high level ministerial meeting this week, MA Co-Chair and United Nations University Institute of Advanced Studies (UNU-IAS) Director Prof. AH Zakri called on governments to recognize the role of ecosystem services in planning and policy decisions related to such core concerns as economics, health, and even security. He also highlighted the importance of biodiversity for poverty eradication based on the findings of the MA – a five-year research effort by the world's leading scientists, with contributions from UNU experts, which gives compelling evidence of our dependence on healthy and diverse ecosystems for basic needs such as clean water, food, and air.

"The MA findings show that the increasing pressures on biodiversity and ecosystem services pose a major barrier to achieving the Millennium Development Goals of poverty reduction, food security, health, and environmental sustainability," said Prof. Zakri. "But it also shows that mainstreaming the sustainable management of biodiversity and ecosystems into central governmental planning and decision-making processes may reverse the trends of degradation in ecosystem services."

The MA shows that short-term economic and other benefits derived from exploiting forests, wetlands, oceans, and other resources are significantly overweighed by the greater long-term damage to human livelihoods and health. It also shows that healthy "ecosystem services" can mitigate the impacts of natural disasters, and biodiversity is the fundamental basis for the health of those services. This is evident in the most extreme effects of disasters such as landslides, floods and droughts being felt in Asia, Africa, South America and Central Europe – the world's most human-modified areas with the least biodiversity.

UNU paid tribute to Brazil's recognition of the role of ecosystem services by highlighting President Lula da Slilva's recent decision to protect 6.4 million hectares of the Amazon rain forest. "We should take inspiration from Brazil's commitment to protecting biodiversity," said Prof. Zakri. "Governments must invest in developing capacity and allocating financial resources to assess the economic and human consequences of changes in ecosystem services as part of their national planning processes. We know the problem and we have the tools, what is lacking is the political will and concrete action."

The MA provides a framework for the development of an educational programme for policy makers on the link between poverty and the environment, and will help prepare the next generation of young scientists to conduct similar assessments in the future. UNU-IAS is contributing to this initiative through a new research and training programme, 'Ecosystems and People', aimed at addressing these issues.

For more information and to arrange interviews: Sam Johnston (English inquiries),, +55-41-9679-2556 Tatiana Gadda (Portuguese inquiries),, +55-41-9679-6513


Prof. AH Zakri's speech is available upon request.
The UNU-IAS Ecosystems and People Programme will take up research areas and gaps left by the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment particularly focused on research and activities already developed under the previous UNU-IAS Urban Ecosystems Programme and through the creation of new components based on the relationship between ecosystem services, poverty and attaining related Millennium Development Goals. This area will also have a strong capacity-building component that will work on implementing the results of the MA through training other parts of the UN, policy makers and also through training trainers in developing countries.
For information on the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment and ecosystem services, see http://www.millenniumassessmen.....ucts.aspx?
UNU-IAS is a global think tank whose mission is "advancing knowledge and promoting learning for policy-making to meet the challenges of sustainable development." It is part of the United Nations University's global network of research and training centres. The Institute undertakes research and postgraduate education on leading sustainable development issues, convening expertise from disciplines such as economics, law, biology, political science, physics and chemistry to better understand and contribute creative solutions to pressing global concerns.
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 27, 2006 7:15 pm    Post subject: Healing plants found in Borneo forest: WWF Reply with quote

Healing plants found in Borneo forest: WWF
Wed Apr 26, 8:08 PM ET

Plants thought to help treat or cure cancer, AIDS and malaria have been found in the rainforests of Borneo, a report from the Swiss-based global conservation group WWF said on Thursday.

But the rapid destruction of trees, much of it by illegal logging to meet growing world demand for timber, could wreck any chance of using these discoveries in the fight against disease, the WWF declared.

A promising anti-cancer substance has been found in a Borneo shrub by researchers for an Australian pharmaceutical firm, while a chemical found in latex produced by a tree appears to be effective against the replication of HIV, the report said.

In the bark of another species of tree, the researchers discovered a previously unknown substance which in laboratory tests appeared to kill the human malaria parasite, it added.

In all, it said, 422 new plant species had been discovered in Borneo -- shared by Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei -- in the last 25 years and many others were believed to be there which could have medicinal applications.

But "all these promising discoveries could eventually be lost if the disappearing rainforests of the heart of Borneo are not adequately protected," the WWF said.

"More forest destruction could well deny science the opportunity to discover and develop further potential sources of life-saving medication," it quoted Murray Tait, vice president of Drug Delivery at Cerylid Biosciences, the Australian company that identified the anti-cancer compound, as saying.

Borneo's forest cover has shrunk to 50 percent of its territory today from 75 percent in the mid-1980s, the report said.
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PostPosted: Sun May 21, 2006 9:25 am    Post subject: Scientists develop first comprehensive theory Reply with quote

Field Museum
18 May 2006

Scientists develop first comprehensive theory explaining Madagascar's rich biodiversity

High levels of endemism related to the configuration of watersheds and geologically recent shifts in climate, says Science cover story
CHICAGO--An international team of scientists has developed an explanation for why Madagascar has such a wealth of animals found only on this island. Their findings will help sort out the evolutionary history of these animals and prioritize conservation efforts in the limited remaining natural forests of Madagascar, the most biodiverse landmass in the world.
Explaining Madagascar's extraordinary levels of plant and animal endemism has been called "one of the greatest unsolved mysteries of natural history." The long separation of Madagascar from Africa and India explains only some aspects of the island's endemism. Even more intriguing is that many of these plants and animals have very small distributions on the island, something that is called micro-endemism.

For the first time, this new research presents a comprehensive theory explaining how so many animals came to be limited to such small geographic areas across the island, which lies off the eastern coast of Africa. In some lowland areas of the island these animals tended to be isolated by the configuration of certain watersheds, and this isolation led to speciation, the evolution of new species.

Using an analysis of watersheds in the context of paleoclimatic shifts, the authors provide a new mechanistic model to explain the process of explosive speciation on the island. Existing data show that substantial climatic shifts took place during the end of the Tertiary, as well as more recently during the Quaternary. The latter period is also known as "The Age of Man."

When the climate was dry and cold, considerable portions of the Earth were covered by glaciers. On Madagascar, habitats at higher elevations would have remained more humid, as compared to the drying-out of more lowland areas. Therefore, groups of animals tended to "retreat" to higher elevations along riverine habitat that would have remained relatively humid during these periods of climatic change. The animals that did not "retreat" tended to be left behind in small, limited geographic areas where river sources commenced at relatively low elevations. Since they were isolated, those populations that were able to survive were more likely to develop into new species.

"River catchments with their sources at relatively low elevations were zones of isolation and hence led to the speciation of locally endemic taxa," the authors explain in a paper to be published as the cover story of Science on May 19, 2006.

"This theory provides a clear framework for testing the relationships between different organisms that are closely related to one another, unraveling aspects of their evolutionary histories, and explaining how so many endemic animals can be found on this island nation," says Steve Goodman, one of the authors and Senior Field Biologist at The Field Museum and coordinator of a science educational project at WWF-Madagascar.

The other co-authors are Lucienne Wilmé, an ornithologist who has been living on Madagascar for nearly two decades and has considerable experience in the natural sciences and data analysis; and Jörg U. Ganzhorn of the Department of Animal Ecology and Conservation at the University of Hamburg, Germany, who has been studying the ecology of different groups of vertebrates on this island nation for a comparable period of time.

Data and spatial analyses solve the riddle

The new hypothesis explaining the evolutionary history of regional speciation in Madagascar's forests is based a study of the island's rivers and associated watersheds coupled with an analysis of 35,400 records of different modern animals. This method predicts several centers of endemism that are borne out by current distribution of these endemic animals, including lemurs.

Using the new method to classify different portions of the island as special zones of micro-endemism and then overlaying them on maps of Madagascar showing reserves and parks reveals several areas in need of additional protection.

"This analysis has crucial importance associated with the Malagasy Government's current plan to increase the island's protected areas by three-fold, giving clear priority to zones with high levels of micro-endemism, remaining forests, and little-to-no current protection," Goodman says.

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 09, 2006 10:01 am    Post subject: Agriculture and tropical conservation: rethinking old ideas Reply with quote

Agriculture and tropical conservation: rethinking old ideas
8 August 2006

University of Michigan

Ann Arbor, Mich. -- It's a long-held view in conservation circles that rural peasant activities are at odds with efforts to preserve biodiversity in the tropics. In fact, the opposite is often true, argue University of Michigan researchers John Vandermeer and Ivette Perfecto.

Combining case studies with ecological theory, Vandermeer and Perfecto found that the peasant farming practices encouraged by grassroots movements such as Brazil's Landless Workers Movement, Mexico's Zapatistas or the international Via Campesina actually support conservation, while the practices of extremely wealthy landowners often undermine it. The researchers will present their findings Aug. 8 in two symposia at the Ecological Society of America meeting in Memphis, Tenn.

"When you talk to peasant producers in tropical areas, they're usually surprised when they hear that conservationists think that they're the enemies of conservation," said Vandermeer, who is the Margaret Davis Collegiate Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. "They love their farms and all the plants and animals in the area, and they see that it's the big, rich landowners who come in and cut all the trees down and turn the land into cattle pastures. So the standard litany doesn't ring true to them."

Vandermeer and Perfecto reviewed studies of biodiversity in the Atlantic coast rainforest of Brazil, a region that is unusual in having areas of tremendous biological variety adjacent to highly developed, industrialized areas.

"The area has some of the highest biodiversity in the world, but it all occurs in fragments of forest," Vandermeer said. In one study the researchers examined, a Brazilian scientist documented in a single river valley 28,000 separate forest fragments, where vulnerable species such as muriqui monkeys live. Vandermeer and Perfecto combined observations such as these with current ecological theory.

"We know that a lot of organisms typically live in a fragmented state in nature, with subpopulations scattered around an area," Vandermeer said. Disease or predators may wipe out a particular subpopulation, but migrants from nearby subpopulations come in and establish a new subpopulation. "We now think that most high diversity situations operate this way, with a continual process of local extinction and re-migration. When you couple that ecological theory with the observation of highly fragmented forests in the Atlantic coast rainforest, the real question is not how much forest is left, but what's between those patches that are left, and will it support the necessary migrations from patch to patch as local extinctions occur, which they inevitably do?"

If forest patches are separated by barren pastures or fields of single crops, such as soybeans, then monkeys, birds, and other forest animals probably won't travel through them to repopulate areas where extinction has occurred. But that's not the case if the intervening areas are traditional "agroforests"---farms where fruit and timber trees share space with other crops, Vandermeer said. "That's the kind of agriculture that's friendly to biodiversity, and that's the kind of agriculture that peasant farmers actually do."

Vandermeer and Perfecto, a professor of natural resources and environment, visited agroforests in the Pontal de Paranapanema region of Brazil, where landless peasants organized by Catholic priests established homesteads in the 1950s and 1960s. There, the researchers saw evidence that the farms do indeed serve as thoroughfares for migrating animals. "These farmers actually have monkeys that come through their farms," Vandermeer said.

The U-M scientists and their collaborator Jefferson Ferreira Lima of Brazil's Instituto de Pesquisas Ecologicas also spoke with members of the Landless Workers' Movement (Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra, or MST), which is a member of the international peasant organization Via Campesina. "It's a political movement, but it's very pro-conservation, and they specifically understand what they're doing by creating a new kind of agriculture based on small producers using organic or semi-organic methodologies on farms with trees," Vandermeer said.

With these groups encouraging such biodiversity-friendly practices, Vandermeer said, "I think conservationists and rural peasant movements ought to be friends."

For more information:

John Vandermeer

Ivette Perfecto

Ecological Society of America

Instituto de Pesquisas Ecologicas
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 14, 2006 7:04 am    Post subject: Ancient war paint in fight against breast cancer Reply with quote

Society of Chemical Industry
13 August 2006

Ancient war paint in fight against breast cancer

A plant that gave ancient Britons and Celts their blue war paint, has been found to be a rich source of the anti-cancer compound, glucobrassicin, traditionally associated with broccoli. Glucobrassicin has been found to be effective against breast cancer. The war paint, a blue dye, is obtained from Woad, a member of the Brassicaceae family.

Stefania Galletti and her team at the University of Bologna, Italy, found that the plant contains twenty times more cancer fighting chemical glucobrassicin than its relative, broccoli, which they enhanced to nearly 65 times using various treatments (Journal of the Science of Agriculture DOI: 10.1002/jsfa.2571).This compound plays a defensive role in plants, and the researchers found that wounding the leaves can increase levels by 30%. When leaves are damaged, for example, by insects, glucobrassicin is released as a defence mechanism. Its derivatives can kill some plant pests, and also appear to have anti-tumoral properties, and are particularly effective against breast cancer.

Glucobrassicin has shown an active role in flushing out cancer-causing chemicals including derivatives of estrogen. Women with higher levels of this hormone are at an increased risk of developing breast cancer.

There have been many reports on the health benefits of broccoli and other commonly consumed vegetables from the same family. However, it has been difficult to extract enough of the broccoli compound to carry out extensive tests. Galletti's team hope that by using this cheap, rich source, in depth research can be carried out to study how this compound acts in the body.
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 03, 2006 7:40 am    Post subject: Madagascar Reply with quote

Get a better picture of life on Madagascar. Explore hundreds of photos and hours of audio to learn about one of the most biodiverse places on earth
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 05, 2006 8:18 pm    Post subject: Life's Cradle Also a Living Museum Reply with quote

Life's Cradle Also a Living Museum

By Sara Goudarzi
LiveScience Staff Writer
posted: 05 October 2006
02:00 pm ET

The tropics are where new species begin and older species continue to live, according to a new study that settles a long-running debate.

"I think we've killed the idea that the tropics is either a cradle or a museum of biodiversity,” said study co-author James W. Valentine, professor emeritus of integrative biology at University of California, Berkeley. "It's both."

The regions of the Earth near the equator—the tropics—are much richer in species and evolutionary lineage than anywhere else on Earth. That much has long been known. But the reason for this has baffled scientists and for the past 30 years they wondered if this is where new life begins or where older life persists.

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 26, 2006 7:15 am    Post subject: Biodiversity controls ecological 'services' Reply with quote

University of California - Santa Barbara
25 October 2006

Biodiversity controls ecological 'services,' report scientists in comprehenisive analysis

(Santa Barbara, California) –– Accelerating rates of species extinction pose problems for humanity, according to a comprehensive study headed by a biologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara and published in the journal Nature this week.

The groundbreaking statistical analysis demonstrates that the preservation of biodiversity –– both the number and type of species –– is needed to maintain ecological balance and "services." The concern about losing numbers of species versus types of species has been an area of scientific controversy for over a decade.

"By combining the results of more than a hundred studies performed over two decades, we were able to conclusively show that the extinction of species from our planet will change the way pests and diseases are controlled, organic wastes are broken down and recycled, food is produced by ecosystems, and water is purified," said Bradley J. Cardinale, first author and associate professor in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology at UCSB.

The 111 field, greenhouse, and laboratory studies that were analyzed by the authors came from experiments performed on species from around the world. "Until recently, scientists knew a lot about the causes of extinctions, but surprisingly little about their consequences," said Diane S. Srivastava, second author and professor in the Department of Zoology at the University of British Columbia.

Cardinale explained that one-third to one-half of all the species on the planet are expected to be lost in the next 100 years, and that currently species are going extinct at thousands of times faster than they have historically. The losses are due to the cutting down of rainforests, development, pollution, and the introduction of exotic species that take over the niches of indigenous species.

"Our study shows that biodiversity matters," said Srivastava. "Ecosystems with more species function better, that is, they are more efficient in moving energy and matter. In practical terms, this means that diverse ecosystems are better at, for example, controlling pests, breaking down organic matter, and absorbing carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas."

As one example, one of the 111 studies included in the analysis reveals the role of species diversity in controlling agricultural pests. That experiment shows the critical importance of the ladybug beetle –– part of a synergistic "team" of three aphid predators. In this study, Cardinale presented evidence that together, a specific group of predators (the ladybug, the damsel bug, and the parasitic wasp), can reduce the density of aphids, in turn increasing the yield of alfalfa, an economically important crop. His study was performed in Wisconsin and showed that all three natural enemies together reduce the aphids to a greater extent than is predicted from each natural enemy alone. He explained that this service, provided by species diversity, is worth millions of dollars for agriculture in Wisconsin alone, not including the fact that the farmers do not have to spray their alfalfa crops when the three key predator species abound.

Cardinale said, "We now have good evidence that the number and type of species on the planet regulate services that affect humanity. If we value these services, then we need to protect biodiversity."

He explained that it is important to set aside protected areas. For example, marine protected areas, national parks, and ecological reserves can all help to preserve biodiversity. Additionally it is important to consider biological "hot spots," where biodiversity is high. "We could save a lot of species with only small areas, by putting aside hot spots," he said.

Cardinale's varied research interests are tied together by a common thread, which is to understand the causes and consequences of changing biodiversity in the modern era.

The study published in Nature was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation.
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 05, 2007 7:27 pm    Post subject: Rare marine species discovered in Philippines Reply with quote

Panglao Marine Biodiversity Project

Rare marine species discovered in Philippines
Mon Feb 5, 10:50 AM ET

A French-led marine expedition has discovered thousands of new species of crustaceans and mollusks in waters around the central Philippines.

The discovery was made by the Panglao Marine Biodiversity Project, which has been conducting "an intensive inventory" of the complex coastal ecosystem off Panglao island for the past two years.

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 18, 2007 9:00 am    Post subject: Is biodiversity the future of farming? Reply with quote

American Society of Agronomy
17 February 2007

Is biodiversity the future of farming?

An Agronomy Journal article explores industrial agriculture challenges and points to profitable alternatives designed to use less energy
Industrial agriculture faces painful challenges: the end of cheap energy, depleted water resources, impaired ecosystem services, and unstable climates. Scientists searching for alternatives to the highly specialized, energy intensive industrial system might profitably look to the biological synergies inherent in multi-species systems, according to an article in the March-April 2007 issue of Agronomy Journal.

The paper's author, Fred Kirschenmann, Distinguished Fellow for Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Iowa State University, states that industrial agriculture assumes:

Production efficiency can be best achieved through specialization, simplification and concentration
Therapeutic intervention is the most effective way to control undesirable events
Technological innovation will always be able to overcome production challenges
Control management is the most effective way to achieve production results
Cheap energy will always be available

As we enter the 21st century most, if not all, of these assumptions must be questioned. The degraded condition of ecosystem services was detailed in the UN "Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Synthesis Report" (2005). The report also anticipates that during the next 50 years demand for food crops will grow by 70 to 85% and demand for water by between 30 and 85%.

Volatile weather conditions predicted to be part of emerging climate change will make it difficult to sustain highly specialized cropping systems which require relatively stable climates. To keep agriculture productive, farmers likely will need to adjust quickly. If we can design farming systems that are less energy intensive, more resilient in the face of unstable climates, and that begin to out-produce monocultures by virtue of their multi-species output, the economic advantages of such complex farming operations might be an incentive to change.

A few farmers already operate successful, complex farming systems based on biological synergies and adaptive management. One is Takao Furuno's duck/fish/rice/fruit farm in Japan. He produces duck meat, duck eggs, fish meat, fruit, and rice without any purchased outside inputs, using a highly synergistic system of production on the same acreage where he previously only produced rice. And, in this new system, his rice yields have increased up to 50% over previous yields from an energy-intensive rice monoculture. Joel Salatin, of Polyface Farms near Swoope, VA, has developed a rotational grazing production system featuring pastures containing at least 40 varieties of plants and numerous animal species. Salatin's farm uses little fossil fuel, yet the farm is highly productive. The 57-hectare farm annually produces 30,000 dozen eggs, 10,000 to 12,000 broilers, 100 beef animals, 250 hogs, 800 turkeys, and 600 rabbits.

A study by George Boody and colleagues has calculated, on a watershed basis, that diverse, synergistic farms can be profitable and simultaneously benefit the environment. They showed that when farms are converted from corn/soybean monocultures to more diverse operations, net farm income can increase by as much as 108% while generating significant environmental and social benefits. Principles that might guide postmodern farms are almost diametrically opposed to those supporting industrial agriculture. They may need to:

Be energy conserving
Feature both biological and genetic diversity
Be largely self-regulating and self-renewing
Be knowledge intensive
Operate on biological synergies
Employ adaptive management
Feature ecological restoration rather than choosing between extraction and preservation
Achieve optimum productivity by featuring nutrient-density, and multi-product synergistic production on limited acreage

To learn more about biodiversity, view the Agronomy Journal article abstract at:

Agronomy Journal, is a peer-reviewed, international journal of agriculture and natural resource sciences published six times a year by the American Society of Agronomy (ASA).

The American Society of Agronomy (ASA), the Crop Science Society of America (CSSA) and the Soil Science Society of America (SSSA) are educational organizations helping their 11,000+ members advance the disciplines and practices of agronomy, crop, and soil sciences by supporting professional growth and science policy initiatives, and by providing quality, research-based publications and a variety of member services.
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 19, 2007 9:29 am    Post subject: Mother Nature’s medicine cabinet Reply with quote

Mother Nature’s medicine cabinet
19 March 2007
Journal of Natural Products

When it comes to stocking pharmacy shelves with drugs to treat human ills, Mother Nature still is the ultimate medicinal chemist, a study scheduled for the March 23 issue of ACS’ Journal of Natural Products, a monthly publication, suggests.

In the study, the National Cancer Institute’s David J. Newman and Gordon M. Craig conclude that only 30 percent of the critically important “new chemical entities (NCEs)” introduced between 1981 and mid-2006 were synthetic and not based on a naturally-occurring compound. NCEs are totally new drugs, never before available, rather than modified versions of existing medications sometimes termed “me-too” drugs. The remaining 70 percent of the NCEs introduced during the last 25 years were natural products — medicines obtained from sources such as plants and animals, derived from natural products or chemically designed to mimic natural products.

Natural products range from aspirin (originally obtained from the willow tree) to taxol, the anti-cancer drug discovered in the Pacific yew tree. About half of all anti-cancer drugs introduced since the 1940s are either natural products or medicines derived directly from natural products, the study notes.

The new review of natural products’ role as sources of new drugs is an expanded and updated version of reports published in 1997 and 2003. “We strongly advocate expanding, not decreasing, the exploration of Nature as a source of novel active ingredients that may serve as the leads and scaffolds for elaboration into desperately needed efficacious drugs for a multitude of disease indications,” the study concludes.

ARTICLE #1 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE “Natural Products as Sources of New Drugs over the Last 25 Years”


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 21, 2007 7:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Biologists Produce Global Map of Plant Biodiversity

March 20, 2007

By Kim McDonald

Biologists at the University of California, San Diego and the University of Bonn in Germany have produced a global map of estimated plant species richness. Covering several hundred thousand species, the scientists say their global map is the most extensive map of the distribution of biodiversity on Earth to date.

For the full article and maps:
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 22, 2007 9:43 am    Post subject: Mother knows best: Plant knowledge key to childhood health i Reply with quote

Brandeis University
22 March 2007

Mother knows best: Plant knowledge key to childhood health in remote Amazon

Globalization seen as undermining local folk knowledge associated with healthy child development
Waltham, MA —In a remote area of the Amazon, globalization is threatening the time-honored transmission of plant knowledge from generation to generation, with adverse effects on childhood health and nutrition. In a novel study published online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers report that parents, and especially mothers, who know more about plants and how to use them, have healthier children, independent of other factors such as education, market participation or acculturation.

The researchers, from the universities of Brandeis, Northwestern, Georgia (Athens), and Autonomous University of Barcelona, studied the Tsimane', an indigenous horticulturalist and foraging society in the lowlands of Bolivia who use local plants daily for medicine, firewood, construction and food. The Tsimane' rely on wild and domesticated plants for more than half of their household consumption, while purchased goods account for a tiny fraction of consumption.

"Like other remote rural populations around the world, the Tsimane' must rely on their ability to exploit natural resources to maintain the health of their children," said Victoria Reyes-García, PhD, coauthor and visiting researcher at Brandeis University. "However, many Tsimane' are pursuing new economic opportunities that undermine this aspect of their culture. It seems to be one of the many unintended consequences of globalization."

The study evaluated the health of 330 Tsimane' two-to-ten year-olds and interviewed their mothers and fathers to assess their ethnobotanical skills and knowledge. Researchers looked at three measures of child health: their immune function, as measured in C-reactive protein levels; skinfold thickness, to estimate fat stores, and height-for-age, to assess stunted growth.

Reyes-García explained that mothers who had knowledge of local plants well above the average were more likely to have children with better health, whereas mothers who had less than the average knowledge were more likely to have children with worse indicators of health and nutrition. For example, in families with mothers with low local plant knowledge, the researchers determined there is a likelihood of nearly one in five children being severely stunted, while families in which mothers possess high levels of plant knowledge have fewer than one in ten children with severe stunting. The other two measures found similar results, with knowledge of local plants significantly correlated with childhood health and nutrition.

To a great extent, Tsimane survival and well being is dependent on their knowledge of local plants, in everything from managing their environment to getting food and preventing and curing disease, explained Reyes-García. "However, globalization threatens this knowledge to the extent that formal schooling and jobs in emerging markets devalue folk knowledge and provide access to products not made from local resources, but without providing adequate medical treatment substitutes," said Reyes-García. "In a situation where local medicinal knowledge is not adequately substituted by access to medical facilities, the consequences of this lost knowledge can translate into poorer childhood health."

The research was supported by grants from The National Science Foundation.
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 26, 2007 9:45 am    Post subject: Too much of a good thing? Excess nutrients or water limit bi Reply with quote

University of Minnesota
25 March 2007

Too much of a good thing? Excess nutrients or water limit biodiversity

Too much of a good thing (nutrients or water) actually decreases the diversity of species in an ecosystem while it increases the productivity of a few species, according to a grassland experiment conducted by University of Minnesota researchers.

The reduction in species diversity occurs because increasing the amounts of limiting resources, such as nitrogen and water, makes an ecosystem more homogeneous and consequently reduces the number of opportunities for competing species to coexist. Put another way, it reduces the number of niches, allowing a few species to dominate.

The study, conducted by David Tilman, Regents Professor of Ecology, and Stanley Harpole will be published March 25 in the online version of the journal Nature. Harpole, who is now a postdoctoral associate at the University of California, Irvine, was a graduate student at the University of Minnesota when the research was carried out.

"In essence, the data in the article strongly supports a new explanation for why the world contains so many species," said Tilman. "It shows that plant diversity is directly related to the number of limiting factors (such as soil moisture, nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium and water)."

It also helps explain why grasslands, lakes and rivers that are polluted with nitrogen and phosphorous (usually from agriculture) have fewer species. The reduction of species where the Mississippi River empties into the Gulf of Mexico is one of the best known examples of this phenomenon.

The findings are based on experiments carried out at the University of California’s Sedgwick Reserve in the Santa Ynez Valley, where the researchers applied combinations of nutrients and water to plots of grassland. Plots that received all of the resources had the fewest species and highest productivity. They combined this with analysis of the 150 year old Rothamsted Park Grass Experiment. Both supported their hypothesis.

"Our results show that the loss of plant species from a habitat due to nutrient pollution can persist for more than 100 years," Harpole said. "Thus human actions that simplify habitats can lead to long-term loss of biodiversity."
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 01, 2007 7:31 am    Post subject: Biodiversity and Climate Change Reply with quote

The Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity is pleased to announce the focus of the 2007 International Day for Biological Diversity (IBD), 22 May, will be on:

Biodiversity and Climate Change

This complements the designation of 2007 as the International Polar Year and coincides with UNEP’S World Environment Day theme of Climate Change. Lectures, seminars, film presentations, cultural events, exhibitions and school outreach activities are just some suggestions that you may wish to implement to help draw attention to one of the most critical issues facing our planet today.

For the Convention on Biological Diversity website:
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PostPosted: Fri May 04, 2007 1:27 pm    Post subject: A New Era In Biodiversity Management Reply with quote

A New Era In Biodiversity Management
By Eden E. Estopace
The Philippine Star 04/29/2007

News About The Environment, No Matter How Relevant To The the nation’s interest, is inherently bland.

Compared to the drama of corruption scandals or the loud roar of election controversies, the urgency of saving the country’s remaining endemic species simply cannot excite the public in the same way.

Yet, there is perhaps more drama in the high seas as the last of the predatory fishes fight for their last breath before a dynamite blast drives them to extinction. Definitely, there is a story to tell in a remote shoreline as an ageing sea turtle crawls back to shore for the last time before it ends up as a turtle soup in a rich man’s table or as a tortoise shell trinket in a souvenir shop.

What more could be more dramatic than an eagle’s last soar in the sky before it is felled by a hunter’s bullet? The heart of darkness lurks in the most beautiful of places, in the gentlest embrace of the calmest of winds.

But for Conservation International Philippines, a US-based international organization whose mission is to conserve the earth’s living heritage and demonstrate that human societies can live harmoniously with nature, all is not lost. A new strategy in biodiversity management is shaping up.

First the facts: The Philippines has more than 20,000 endemic species and is one of the 17 countries which collectively claim two-thirds of the earth’s biological diversity within their boundaries.

These 17 countries occupy only 2.5 percent of the earth’s land area but host more than 50 percent of the species of the entire world. Our country’s wealth really lies in the richness of our lands and seas and the abundance life forms in our midst.

Yet, according to Romeo Trono, CI Philipines’ country executive director, we are fast losing our endemic species to wildlife hunting, illegal logging, land conversions, mining operations, cyanide and dynamite fishing, urbanization, pollution and oil spills, among other environmental aggressions.

Familiar woes, typical gripes.

But the depletion of our marine resources is alarming. The Philippines is actually one of 34 global biodiversity hotspots, which means that the nation’s high biodiversity and endemism is under a high level of threat.

Trono shares, for example, that there are 491 critically endangered species locally and only five percent of our live coral cover remains intact.

"The problem is enormous," says Trono. "Not one organization can succeed singlehandedly in any conservation effort."

Yet, this environmental activist believes that there is hope because now, more than ever, there is greater collaboration among the different sectors working for the environment.

One can hardly call Trono an activist, although his cause and that of CI Philippines is the stuff that sends students, militant organizations, academicians and intellectuals to protest marches.

"Not many people will like what I have to say but I think the government is on the right track and that Environment Secretary Angelo Reyes is really doing a good job," Trono says.

For one, he says the government is now reaching out to various stakeholders of the environment–non-government organizations (NGOs), non-profit foundations, local government units (LGUs), the private sector and even local communities.

"Now they are talking, forming partnerships and alliances, and working together for a common cause," he says.

According to Trono, this proactive, constructive approach is more productive in solving problems.

CI Philippines, for one, is one of the environmental organizations that has adapted a non-adversarial stance against the government and environmental offenders and a non-competitive approach to other environmental players.

"We are in a new era of biodiversity management," he says. "What we really need is to be interconnected with each other and to address the issues in a holistic manner."

The three major problems of the marine ecosystem–destruction of the marine habitat, lack of enforcement policies on marine development and ineffective marine planning–are intertwined and not one organization can possibly solve it.

One cannot talk, for example, of eradicating dynamite fishing if one does not provide alternative sources of livelihood to the fisherfolk, Trono says.

It is also not enough to aim the gun at illegal wildlife hunting and trading and not do something about water pollution that is probably threatens sea life more.

"It is how we manage our relationships and our projects that our work could be effective," Trono says.

CI is currently focused on identifying key biodiversity areas (KBAs) in the Philippines, which should receive the highest priority for immediate conservation.

A total of 128 KBAs had been identified throughout the country from as far north as the Batanes islands to as far south as Sibutu and Tumindao Islands in the Sulu-Sulawesi area.

Environmental groups, says Trono, can use the list and profile of KBAs for targeting conservation action.

What can ordinary people do to help in biodiversity conservation?

First, says Trono, the public should have an awareness of the problem. And this is really the expertise of organizations like Green Peace and the World Wildlife Fund which are strong in media advocacy.

Educating the public on the interrelatedness of health, population, poverty and development issues to the problems of the environment is the first step.

Second, ordinary households should consciousciously practice solid waste management. If not properly disposed, garbage could end up in rivers and seas and eventually kill marine life.

Third, ordinary people can actually help the government do its work through volunteerism.

Trono cites the case of a local community in Anilao, Batangas, which is a famous diving area. For every dive, divers pay a certain amount which goes to a coastal resources management fund, which in turn is used to fund the Bantay Dagat program in coastal communities. NGOs provide logistical support to the project while the local government provides the policy framework through municipal ordinances.

"This is the kind of project where everybody benefits by working together," Trono says.

Another successful project, he shares, was the watershed conservation effort of the commuity in Peñablanca, Tuguegarao where local businesses such as hotels, restaurants, resorts, and gas stations contribute a percentage of their daily sales to fund the conservation of its watershed in the Pinacanauan River, where the water district sources its water supply.

"They found out that when the water supply is low, everybody is affected, not just households. Farms need water for irrigation, factories need stable water supply for their operations. By contributing a small amount for watershed management, each one is indirectly helping preserve animal species which live in the watershed area," Trono explains.

Trono says that he is also happy with the interest the private sector is showing to conservation efforts.

Though most corporate social responsibility programs geared toward coastal resources management or environmental conversation in general are focused on traditional issues, Trono says big businesses can create an impact because they have the resources to hel.

He cites First Gen Corp., an independent power generation company, as an example of how big business can help.

First Gen, Trono says, committed $1 million for the conservation of the Verde Island Passage, which was dubbed as the "center of the center" of marine diversity and home to an estimated 1,736 marine species.

Trono says that CI Philippines can also help big businesses implement their corporate environmental programs.

"We can work with mining organizations, for example, and help them implement environmental policies that can avert environmental disasters," he says. "Let’s accept it, we cannot really eradicate mining, what we can do is work closely with mining companies and communities and help them adopt the best practices in responsible mining," he stresses.

Perhaps what CI Philippines is trying to do is blurring the traces of divisiveness that had driven many environmental groups in the past so that at least one more specie could be saved from extinction, one step at a time.
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 03, 2007 10:35 am    Post subject: Greatest Mysteries: How Many Species Exist on Earth? Reply with quote

Greatest Mysteries: How Many Species Exist on Earth?
By Andrea Thompson, Staff Writer

posted: 03 August 2007 09:18 am ET

The prospect of discovering little green men on other planets has long captured our imaginations, but many scientists are just as excited about finding new life forms in our own backyard.

Though humans have shared the planet with millions of other creatures for thousands of years, we know surprisingly little about our neighbors—we don’t even know exactly how many flora and fauna call Earth home.

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 26, 2007 1:45 pm    Post subject: New Keys to Keeping a Diverse Planet Reply with quote

New Keys to Keeping a Diverse Planet
UC Davis
September 25, 2007

Variation in plants and animals gives us a rich and robust assemblage of foods, medicines, industrial materials and recreation activities. But human activities are eliminating biological diversity at an unprecedented rate.

A new UC Davis study offers clues to how these losses relate to one another -- information that is essential as scientists and land managers strive to protect the remaining natural variation.

Sharon Strauss, a professor of evolution and ecology, and former doctoral student Richard Lankau (now a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Missouri-St. Louis and the University of Illinois), studied competition among genetically varied plants of one species (black mustard, Brassica nigra), and among black mustard and plants of other species.

"This is one of the first studies to show that genetic diversity and species diversity depend on each other," Lankau said. "Diversity within a species is necessary to maintain diversity among species, and at the same time, diversity among species is necessary to maintain diversity within a species.

"And if any one type is removed from the system, the cycle can break down, and the community becomes dominated by a single species."

The research was funded by the National Science Foundation. The paper, titled "Mutual feedbacks maintain both genetic and species diversity in a plant community," was published in the Sept. 14 issue of the journal Science.

The Strauss-Lankau paper is one of three papers by researchers in the UC Davis Graduate Group in Ecology that have recently been published in Science, Nature and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

UC Davis graduate programs in ecology and evolutionary biology are among the best in the nation, and were ranked first in 2007 by U.S. News & World Report.
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 08, 2007 2:57 pm    Post subject: Norway: A 'liquid goldmine' in the quest for new drugs Reply with quote

Norway: A 'liquid goldmine' in the quest for new drugs
8 October 2007
Chemical & Engineering News

The fjords and arctic waters of Norway have become a 'liquid goldmine' for prospecting for the next blockbuster drugs for cancer, AIDS, and other ills, according to an article scheduled for the Oct. 8 issue of Chemical & Engineering News, ACS' weekly newsmagazine. In the article, C&EN associate editor Lisa M. Jarvis points out that Norway may not seem like the most logical place to look for compounds that may become best-selling new drugs. However, researchers believe that the rich diversity of marine life in Norway's waters represents what could amount to a previously unexplored pharmaceutical goldmine.

Scientists long have searched the world's oceans for new drug candidates. However, the quest has focused mainly on tropical waters. Part of Norway's promise, Jarvis explains, is due to a unique circulation pattern that mixes cold water from the Arctic with the warmer water of the Gulf Stream. That environment nurtures a rich and unique diversity of fish, invertebrates, algae and other organisms that may harbor medicinally or technologically intriguing natural chemicals. There are no guarantees of success, but the potential payoffs are enough that government, academic and industrial scientists are teaming up for the search, the article notes.

"Given their motivation, Norway's biotechnological promise may be limited only by the speed with which they can mine the country's icy waters," Jarvis writes.

ARTICLE #5 EMBARGOED FOR 9 A.M., EASTERN TIME, Oct. 8, 2007 "Liquid Goldmine: Scientists in Norway are plumbing the seas for the next blockbuster medicine"

This story will be available on Oct. 8 at:
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 31, 2007 2:18 pm    Post subject: Why do so many species live in tropical forests and coral re Reply with quote

Penn State
31 October 2007

Why do so many species live in tropical forests and coral reefs?

The latest development in a major debate over a controversial hypothesis of biodiversity and species abundance is the subject of a paper to be published in the 1 November 2007 issue of the journal Nature. The authors report good agreement between the species richness of two of the world's most vulnerable ecosystems -- tropical forests and coral reefs -- and a simple mathematical model building on the so-called "neutral theory of biodiversity." "We're helping to refine and improve this theory because it might have important implications for the effort to protect terrestrial biodiversity from climate change and urban development," says Jayanth Banavar of the Department of Physics at Penn State, a member of the research team.

The Nature paper is based on a counterintuitive assumption of neutral theory: that one can largely ignore interactions between species in modeling patterns of species abundance. The authors are physicists Igor Volkov and Jayanth Banavar of Penn State University, plant biologist Stephen Hubbell of UCLA (formerly of the University of Georgia), and physicist Amos Maritan of the University of Padua in Italy.

Among ecological theorists, neutral theory has sparked a six-year quarrel over the fundamental assumptions of their discipline. The Nature paper counters another scientific team's claim in 2006 that coral-reef diversity "refutes" the neutral theory. At the same time, the paper by Volkov et al., to be published on 1 November 2007, modifies the classical version of neutral theory that appeared in a 2001 book by Hubbell. (Graham Bell of McGill University also developed a neutral theory independently of Hubbell.) Banavar, Maritan, Volkov, and their collaborators have been active in the development of a mathematical framework for understanding ecosystems that builds on and clarifies Hubbell's neutral theory.

"Despite its controversial nature, neutral theory has proved to be a good starting point for understanding ecosystems," Maritan says. In a 2005 paper published in Nature, Banavar, Maritan, Volkov, and their collaborators demonstrated that tree-species abundance and diversity in the tropical forests can be explained by the density-dependence mechanism, in which birth, death, and migration processes are postulated to depend on the abundance of a species. In a Nature paper in 2006, they presented a theory for the time scales of neutral evolution that is in good accord with empirical data.

"Mathematical modeling is increasingly vital in the biological sciences, and the key challenge is to uncover the simplicity underlying the seemingly bewildering complexity," Banavar says. In recent years, theorists have struggled to reconcile neutral theory with more mainstream ecological models, such as the famous niche theory, according to which species survive by exploiting ecological "niches" to which they are uniquely and better adapted than other species. For example, a rare plant species might survive in a dense rainforest habitat by exploiting a peculiar soil composition for which it is genetically adapted. Niche theory seemed so commonsensical that many ecological theorists reacted fiercely when Hubbell published his hypothesis, because it implied that individual members of plant or animal species comprising a fixed total population could be modeled as if they were equivalent entities in a random evolutionary lottery influenced only by rates of birth, death, and immigration.

In Hubbell's 2001 book, The Unified Neutral Theory of Biodiversity and Biogeography, he pointed to a surprising feature of some measurements of relative species abundance distributions (RSAs). The measurements are indistinguishable from fictional distribution curves generated by models based on random processes; that is, processes in which the fates of hypothetical species owe purely to chance events in birth, death, and immigration rather than to their adaptive prowess. Of course, in real life, adaptation to niches is an obvious feature of living creatures. For example, polar bears are adapted to the chilly niche of the Arctic, not to the sultry niche of the tropics. Still, Hubbell's findings hinted that the abundance of species and the development of ecological communities and ecosystems owe more to chance processes, and less to biology, than previously had been assumed.

Since 2001, numerous researchers have published the results of field tests of Hubbell's theory, based on their analyses of life forms and habitats such as tropical forests, North American birds, tropical reef fishes and corals, marine benthic communities in intertidal zones, and pollen records of eastern North American during the Holocene. Test results have varied from strongly positive to strongly negative. Some groups have disagreed in their interpretations of the same data.

In March 2006, Maria Dornelas of James Cook University in Queensland, Australia, and her colleagues published in Nature their study of coral-reef communities in the Indian and Pacific oceans. They found the coral-reef species in various local communities differ from each other far more than expected by neutral theory, and they exhibit RSA patterns that are quite distinct from those of tropical forests. The Nature article was titled "Coral Reef Diversity Refutes the Neutral Theory of Biodiversity." In their new Nature article, Volkov et al. reply to this latest challenge by arguing that the Dornelas team's thesis is invalid because the spatial structure and degree of isolation of coral-reef communities is different from those of tropical forests. In their latest paper, Banavar, Maritan, Volkov, and their collaborators have reanalyzed the Dornelas dataset and have concluded that it and measurements of rainforest species are compatible with an extended version of neutral theory in which all species are equivalent and do not interact with each other or the environment. Their work shows that "a theory in which all interspecific interactions are turned off leads to analytical results that are in good agreement with RSA data from tropical forests and coral reefs," the Nature article says. This agreement is so despite the obvious differences between the two types of communities -- coral reefs being composed of "many small, isolated communities" and tropical rainforests being "larger and more connected."

Volkov et al. conclude that "one can make significant theoretical progress in ecology by assuming that the effective interactions are weak in the stationary states in species-rich communities such as tropical forests and coral reefs." Maritan says that ecosystems may have evolved to a stationary state in which the coexisting species are substantially noninteracting because that is the most probable outcome. The next step, Volkov says, is "the development of a framework for bridging neutral and niche theories through the realistic accounting of the most important interactions among species and with the environment; for example, ways in which tree species might compete for the same resources or harbor insect pests that affect their competitiveness with rival tree species."

"The six-year saga of neutral theory is an intriguing example of how a scientific hypothesis can fertilize stimulating new research while evolving over time in response to scientific critiques," Banavar says.

The research was supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, Earthwatch, Frank Levinson and the Celera Foundation, NASA, the National Science Foundation, and MIUR/Italy.

Links to some nice high-resolution images of coral-reef scenes are on the Web at .
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 07, 2007 3:29 pm    Post subject: Exceptions prove rule of tropical importance in biodiversity Reply with quote

University of Chicago
7 November 2007

Exceptions prove rule of tropical importance in biodiversity

Even a group of shellfish that appear to violate the overarching pattern of global biodiversity actually follows the same biological rules as other marine organisms, confirming a general theory for the spread of life on Earth. The University of Chicago's David Jablonski and his colleagues present this finding this week in the advanced online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"There's more of everything in the tropics. More genetic diversity, more diversity in form, more diversity of species," said David Jablonski, the William R. Kenan Jr. Professor in Geophysical Sciences at Chicago. Biologists call this the "latitudinal diversity gradient." They have known about this phenomenon for more than a century, "but there's remarkably little agreement on how it's formed," Jablonski said.

Scientists have offered dozens of different theories to explain the evolutionary underpinnings of the tropics' rich biodiversity. In their Proceedings article, Jablonski, the University of Chicago's Andrew Krug and the University of California, Berkeley's James Valentine present findings that highlight the importance of the tropics in maintaining the entire planet's biodiversity.

Scientists had debated for three decades whether the tropics were a cradle of diversity, where new species originate, or a museum of diversity, where old species persist. Last year Jablonski, Valentine and Kaustuv Roy of the University of California, San Diego, potentially resolved the debate by showing that the tropics is both a cradle and a museum of biodiversity.

But there is a problem nagging at all research on the latitudinal diversity gradient. "So many variables correlate with latitude" - temperature, environmental stability and many other features of the oceans - "that it is tough to separate cause and effect," said Krug, a Research Associate in Geophysical Sciences at Chicago. To do exactly that, the team sifted through a database consisting of 4,600 species of bivalves that occurred in more than 200 locations worldwide.

The research focused on bivalves because of their rich fossil record. "They're known from the shallowest intertidal zone to the deepest of the deep sea," Jablonski said of the bivalves, a group that includes clams, scallops and oysters. "They're known in every latitude, from the north polar ocean to the Antarctic."

The vast majority of bivalve groups show the standard pattern: a peak of diversity in the tropics, tailing off into less diversity in the higher latitudes. "We found one major group that didn't do that. We call that a contrarian group," Jablonski said. That group, called the Anomalodesmata and dubbed the Anomalos by the Chicago-Berkeley team, displayed a striking diversity pattern. Contrary to virtually all other marine life, Anomalo diversity peaked in the mid-latitudes of both hemispheres, but dipped in the tropics.

"We knew we had to take a closer look at these guys," Jablonski said. "We had to see how they fit into the bigger picture, how they got into this strange state. They could've shown a whole new evolutionary dynamic." But they didn't, which actually excited the scientists even more.

"We found out that they do follow the same rules, that they are an exception that proves the rule," Jablonski said. "This was really exciting: science is always about the search for rules, generalizations that can explain nature in new ways." Krug agreed: "The results of the research were a bit surprising, as general rules governing natural systems can be hard to come by."

The origin of new Anomalo lineages was concentrated in the temperate zones, coinciding with their peak diversity. The coincidence between peak diversity and prolific evolution was seen in that group's relatives, too, and because both fell in the tropics, a normal diversity resulted.

"You could imagine a situation in which all their evolutionary action was still in the tropics, but they just had so much extinction there that by default their diversity peak was in the temperate zone," Jablonski said. "But if you know where the diversity peak is, you can predict where evolution is the most prolific."

"Thanks to the fossil record, we can show that their weird diversity pattern is because of a failure to diversify in the tropics and not because of supercharged evolution in the temperate zones. Our rule came through with flying colors."

These results show how important the tropics are for life on Earth: "The tropics are the engine of biodiversity. As the tropics are undermined or deteriorate for a whole variety of reasons, that actually undercuts evolutionary production on a global scale," Jablonski said.
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 09, 2007 2:56 pm    Post subject: How global is the Global Biodiversity Information Facility? Reply with quote

Public Library of Science
9 November 2007

How global is the Global Biodiversity Information Facility?

Biologists and computer scientists have appealed for more information on the world’s biodiversity to be stored digitally so it may better be used to understand the impact of climate change on the Earth’s flora and fauna.

A study, funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), and conducted by biologists at the University of Reading and computer scientists at the University of Cardiff, has revealed large gaps in data available to the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) – the world’s largest single data network which gives access to millions of current digitised biodiversity records.

The paper was published in the November 7 issue of the online, open-access journal PLoS ONE.

The team, which included Dr Alastair Culham and Mr Chris Yesson from the University of Reading’s School of Biological Sciences, used the Legume family as a test case to review the quality of this huge data set.

Dr Culham said: “GBIF provides a fantastic resource that may prove vital in understanding the impacts of global climate change at this critical time. However, the large gaps in data that exist in the GBIF network are a clarion call for the governments of the world's developed nations to invest more money to support institutions and scientists around the world in their quest to digitise, publish and upload more of the data presently hidden in museums.

We put particular emphasis on the quality of location information stored with each specimen record, and the breadth of coverage for known species. In our research we found that over 500 000 records for Legumes are available within the GBIF 'super database'. “

Mr Yesson said: “Although this seems at first glance to be a large dataset, our research revealed major gaps in the coverage of this data. Many Legume species, around 70%, have never been formally recorded in digital collections, or have too few good quality records to be useful. Also, many of the specimen records that are available online have issues that make the location information associated with these records unusable for many purposes. In many cases the most biologically diverse regions of the world have little or no data available online.

A focussed effort on these areas will create a truly global resource that creates unparalleled opportunities for understanding the world's biodiversity."


The following press release refers to an upcoming article in PLoS ONE. The release has been provided by the article authors and/or their institutions. Any opinions expressed in this are the personal views of the contributors, and do not necessarily represent the views or policies of PLoS. PLoS expressly disclaims any and all warranties and liability in connection with the information found in the release and article and your use of such information.

More information about GBIF can be found here:

Alastair Culham (corresponding author)
University of Reading

Citation: Yesson C, Brewer PW, Sutton T, Caithness N, Pahwa JS, et al (2007) How Global Is the Global Biodiversity Information Facility" PLoS ONE 2(11): e1124. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0001124

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