The New York Botanical Garden has embarked upon a two-phase program to document Myanmar's incredibly rich plant life and train botanists there to undertake research and promote sustainability in the country's forests.
The NYBG says that due to decades of isolation, the country probably has the most poorly studied flora in the Northern Hemisphere, despite the fact that it is a major hotspot for biodiversity.
NYBG CEO Gregory Long says that as Myanmar opens up for business, tourism, and research, the country is at a "pivotal" moment for conservation. "The Garden has decades of experience in exploring difficult and poorly understood habitats and helping countries build critical scientific capacity," he said.
First, the NYBG will create a baseline of botanical data while training local botanists how to document flora and also work with local communities on conservation and the sustainable use of forest resources.
The progam is similar to an NYBG model in Brazil that was established more than 20 years ago and that is now being used in various tropical areas and in Southeast Asia. Douglas Daly, Ph.D will direct the Myanmar program. "It's an integrated approach," he said, "that considers human and institutional resources as much as it does natural resources." He added that the flora of Myanmar is almost completely unknown and that it therefore needs more than just botanical exploration. Dr. Daly has worked in tropical forests for more than three decadaes and he specializes in the frankincense and myrrh family.