The fruit and nut forests of Central Asia have reduced by 90%, leaving populations of the Critically Endangered Bukharan pear (Pyrus korshinskyi also known as Pyrus bucharica) isolated to a handful of inaccessible locations in Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and possibly Uzbekistan.
Even these remote populations are threatened by overgrazing of cattle and unsustainable harvesting of tree products (including fruit for consumption and selling at local markets and immature saplings for rootstock).
The Bukharan pear is also of global importance because it is a wild relative of the domestic pear, which is sold in supermarkets across the globe. The conservation of the lesser known Bukharan pear is an important genetic resource against the emergence of new plant diseases.
The dangers of relying too heavily on a narrow genetic stock making a species vulnerable to disease are already becoming apparent in other domesticated fruits such as bananas. The presence of wider genetic diversity among pear species provides greater security for our growing global food demands in the future and is a further reason to conserve this little known species.
Surveys supported by the Global Trees Campaign have identified remnant populations of the pear in three nature reserves in Southern Tajikistan. Now working with reserve staff and local schools in Childukhtaron Nature Reserve we have supported the establishment of tree nurseries to grow this and other wild fruit species to plant out into the wild and supply domestic need.
Due to the severe winters in Tajikistan, saplings of the Bukharan pear will be cared for in nurseries for three years or more before planting out into the wild to give them the best chance of surviving the harsh weather.
Using the survey data of known mature pear trees in Childukhtaron, a monitoring and in-situ conservation strategy for the species is now being developed in collaboration with the reserve staff.
It is hoped this approach can be replicated in the other two reserves: Sari Khosor and Dashtidjum, to ensure the long-term survival of the Bukharan pear.
Did you know?
Fruit from the baobab tree has been called the new ‘superfood’ on the international market after it was approved for use in smoothies by the European Union in 2008.