Conservation of endangered plants

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Kew gardens are one of the worlds leading scientific botanical gardens as a research centre has two functions. One of its roles is to catalogue the biodiversity of endangered plants in the rainforest e.g. Madagascar, the 300,000 species of plants it keeps and conserves are kept in suitable conditions to nurture and help regulate endangered populations.

Its other key role is micro propagation this is growing plants and seeds from pieces of tissue in sterile conditions in a laboratory, and performed in a controlled environment, this is one of the methods used by Kew gardens to prevent endangered species becoming extinct.

Ethics:

Conservation parks are all very useful as they help in the way of sustaining endangered species, plants are one of them without conservation parks deforestation will, destroy the vast biodiversity of rainforest and increase the number of plants that become extinct. So conservation parks take these plants out of the dangerous environment and grow and sustain them in suitable artificial environments. However some people disagree with these methods and believe that conservation is perceived as a response to the pace of change. Plants should be left in their environment to create competition, this competition is what helps plants to adapt and create diversity. Taking these plants into conservation parks it’s eliminating the everyday problems that plants might have to adapt to and in some sense does reduce biodiversity.

I believe that conservation is a good, without this a lot of endangered species of plants would have died out; conservation also helps humans in the discovery of new uses of plants, e.g. ropes, medicines, drugs, without certain drugs which carry analgesic effects for operations. Kew gardens regulate these endangered species and replant them in the wild again.

Social:

Kew gardens is a conservation park which conserves plants and educates adults and children in the process, it contains over 300,000 species of plants, it helps to bring people within the environment of the plants, e.g. palm house.

The palm house explores the diversity of the rainforests eco system, the conditions are perfect for the plants which grow in these conditions, as they are very humid and hot, using the hygrometer, it displayed humidity levels of 86% and temperatures of 28C, the tour guides explain about the uses for some of the plants e.g. the ylang ylang plants oil can be extracted and used as an antidepressant, some of the uses were shown practically like smelling plants and aloe Vera, and how they can be used as cosmetics.

Ylang ylang plant.

The social environment at Kew enables a fun day out for the family exploring can be made on the Kew explorer, shopping can be made, and eating furthermore there are children educational sleepovers and “climbers and creepers” which enables kids to interact in an artificial botanical area.

Economics:

Bananas are one of the world’s most highly economical fruits, as they are sold in abundance, bananas cannot be grown in Britain because of the environmental conditions, and they need hot and humid conditions to grow, bananas are imported and exported from different countries such as, Ecuador and Columbia. Over 760,000 tonnes of bananas are imported making it Britain’s popular fruit sales of bananas in 2000 reached £750 million.

Major issue the conservation of endangered plants

Kew gardens have a key role to help sustain the endangered species of plants that are unable to survive in their natural environment; these plants are dying out due natural diseases which regulate the natural environment when specific species grow in abundance, or human activities such as deforestation or forest fires. The Threatened Plants Appeal also includes British native species such as the cornflower which, as a result of changes in farming practices, is now endangered in the UK.

Micro propagation is the regeneration, of plants from small pieces of tissue in sterile conditions which helps the growth of the plant. When the regeneration of the selective plant tissue has been made it needs to be placed in a growth medium, this medium usually contains sucrose for the supply of energy and the right humidity, and light and temperature to help the plant grow.

At this point it is known as the multiplication stage, a plant growth regulator known as cytokinin and auxins this helps with the stimulation of roots and therefore promotes growth, the growing root should be cultured and grown in fertile soil.

Micro propagation has been very important with the collaboration of in vitro techniques these have helped for the regeneration of endangered species since 1974 and has helped propagated a large variety of plants.

This shows the testing of the tissue growth in the micro propagation method.

DNA fingerprinting is using sequences to identify every individual person or plant; this is according to the different base pairs and their sequencing.

Isolating the DNA in from the rest of the cellular material in the nucleus is the first, and cutting the DNA into several pieces of different sizes using restriction enzyme. Using gel electrophoresis and leaving the DNA strands singular passing electricity through the gel which will separate the DNA strands according to size. This is then made radioactive and then the radioactive can be attached to the base pair of another DNA, according to sequence.

With this information received from the DNA, the origin of the plant for example could be found out, what family it belongs to, and finally the identification for each and every individual plant, quite like DNA bar coding.

Kew also uses methods of extracting DNA from plants by freezing the tissues powdering it and by adding solutions they can use a DNA pellet to make the DNA strands visible.

Corn flowers are dieing out due to the chemicals used by farmers in the bid to increase their yield this has damaged the cornflower and led them nearly to extinction. The corn flower grew as a weed in fields but is now endangered due to the over use of herbicides more machinery instead of horses many cereals are sown in autumn rather than spring and more sterile environment have dramatically reduced the numbers, It has declined from 264 sites to only 3 sites left in Britain.

Kew uses more variety of methods to sustain endangered numbers through the process of cryopreservation which is the method in which the plants will be frozen to sub zero temperatures which will slow all bodily activities almost to a holt even reaction that could lead to death this means that endangered plants could be frozen then propagated.

Environmental: I believe that conservation would help the rainforest environmentally; conservation centers such as Kew gardens are helping plants such as the orchids and the cornflower, from becoming extinct they are regenerating pieces of tissues from the plant and then reintroducing the plant back into its eco-system, this is very important as it helps keep the eco-system in balance if one organism is lost then the eco-system could become unbalanced.

Future: The main aim for the future at Kew gardens is to increase the number of endangered species of plants and catalogue them, furthermore they are going to help the environment I which they grow their plants by recycling compost, cross breeding of plants for new adaptations, more uses for plants and medicinal purposes, furthermore the future of DNA bar coding will be introduced this is the method of using a genetic marker inside an organisms mitochondrial DNA to quickly identify it and the species it belongs to, this will help speed up the process of identifying over 400,000 frozen tissues, cross breeding different species might produce different uses from the plants or even new ones.

Minor topic:

Plants have many uses; one of them is in the pharmaceuticals industry, new medicines are being discovered from plants, one of the first alkaloid discovered was opium, opium has powerful narcotic properties.

Opium is harvested by slashing the ripened pod, a white milky latex dries to form a brown resin from the opium poppy, this can be scrapped of and used as raw opium, leading legal producers of opium make this by cutting the poppy and excluding the roots and leaves, and leaving it in a stewed solution of hydrochloric acid.

The power of opium’s effects depends on how it is delivered into the body, It works fast when smoked because the opiate chemicals pass into the lungs, where they are quickly absorbed by blood vessels and sent to the brain. Opium’s effects occur more slowly when it is eaten or mixed in a liquid, because then the drug has to pass through the stomach and upper intestines, and into the liver before moving on to the brain. The process of digestion weakens the drug as it passes through the various organs before being absorbed by the bloodstream.

Opium “high” is very similar to a heroin “high”. The user experiences a rush of pleasure, followed by an extended period of relaxation, freedom from anxiety, and the relief of physical pain. Breathing slows and the pupils of the eyes become like pinpoints. In the brain, opium binds to the receptors that cause pleasure-enhancing sensations.

Morphine once in the brain attaches itself to opiate receptors in the limbic system, brain stem, and the spinal cord. Once in the limbic system the morphine generates the release of dopamine, which produces intense pleasures feelings.

The morphine continues diffuse around the brain and leaves the user very comfortable and drowsy, pupils start to constrict. Once in the brain stem morphine slows down the breathing and heart rate, sometimes to the point of death. In the spinal cord it blocks pain transmissions and electrical signals.

Over long term uses the brain adapts to the presence of the drug, once withdrawn the body suffers from vomiting, diarrhoea over several days, and physical cravings.

Opium was used as an analgesic until morphine was discovered, which was carried out for numbing severe pains. Morphine is used in operations, because it blocks neuron, impulses it means that operations can be carried out without any pains at all, can be used in heart surgery, lung transplants, or removing objects inside the body without the patient feeling any pain.

Economics:

Mirwais Yasini, the head of Afghanistan’s Counter Narcotics Directorate, who estimates that the Taliban and its allies derived more than US$150m from drugs in 2003. In recent Afghanistan history, opium poppy cultivation has been ranging from, 54,000 to 80,000 hectares. As for the 91,000 and the 8,000 hectares harvested respectively in 1999 and 2001, yielding 4,581 and 185 tonnes of opium, this practically means that opium is the main source of income for Afghanistan.

Future:

The cultivation of opium poppies are decreasing significantly this is mainly because of their high demand, in surgical uses and for smoking them. I believe these plants might need to be conserved very soon if we still want their narcotic, and analgesic effects hopefully in the future there would be more efficient ways of conserving them and ways of producing large numbers of these poppies. These poppies may be used effectively for the same purposes in the future however new usage might be discovered.

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