Nepal’s central situation in the Himalayan biodiversity hotspot combined with its extremely wide elevation and climate gradients gives rise to a unique assemblage of species. However, Nepal’s endemic plant species, predominantly found in the high mountain regions, are thought to be seriously affected by predicted climate change and biological invasion. The threat from invasive species to Nepal’s agricultural sector is among the highest in the world, and many natural habitats and internationally protected sites are also under immediate threat from the spread of alien plant species.
This project aims to mobilize occurrence data of alien and endemic plant species to fill the geographical gaps in biodiversity information and inform policy for national conservation priorities. Utilizing historic data held by the National Herbarium and Plant Laboratory and Tribhuvan University Central Herbarium in Kathmandu, Nepal, more than 9,000 invasive, naturalized and endemic plant species will be digitized. In addition to adding occurrence datasets to GBIF, the project will produce accompanying data papers in peer-reviewed journals. Through these outputs, a catalogue of alien and endemic plant species of Nepal will be prepared with the combined goal to achieve greater accessibility of Nepalese biodiversity information.
To guide and monitor the project activities a management committee was formed and have met several times. Since May 2018, work has been focused on updating and validating checklists of alien and endemic plant species. A finalised checklist of 180 alien and 313 endemic plants of Nepal based on previous databases and publications has been achieved. Herbarium specimens have been successfully sorted from both collections and progress has started on photographing, scanning and checking herbarium specimens by experts. As part of this goal to digitize records, a photographic facility has been set up at TUCH.
From the checklists produced as part of this project and species recorded in the region on the GBIF platform, the team have identified species which have been poorly represented in past collections. To this end, a field collection to two mountainous districts in Western Nepal was organised for two weeks in September 2018 with participants from partner institutions. By filling the gaps in the record collections, it is hoped that a more complete list of digitized species data will be attained. The project will now move to publish datasets as well as preparing a data paper which will be shared at a result workshop in March 2019.
Invasion of natural ecosystem by Lantana camara (Verbenaceae), a pervasive species present in western Nepal. Photo by Bharat Babu Shrestha.