The border region of southeast Xizang and northwest Yunnan – part of the Three Parallel Rivers World Heritage Site of UNESCO – is a hotspot of rhododendron diversity with over 300 known species. Despite its official status as an area of outstanding universal value (since 2003), degradation of natural ecosystems continues in the region, in particular as a result of overexploitation for firewood and conversion of rhododendron shrublands to grasslands for livestock grazing.
In the first year of this three-year project, a comprehensive survey of the rhododendrons occurring in this region, along with the gathering of socio-economic data to assess the dependence of local peoples’ livelihoods on the species will be completed and an integrated conservation action plan devised. In parallel with this study, plant material will be collected to develop and/or refine propagation techniques. These will support the establishment of conservation collections at Shangri-La Alpine Botanical Garden and, in a later phase of the project in situ conservation and restoration of wild populations.
The project will work with a number of local and provincial forestry and protected area authorities and local communities to develop sustainable management approaches benefiting rhododendron conservation as well as the improvement of local peoples’ livelihoods.