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Scientists hope to document over 7,000 plant species in Kenya flora survey

Reporter: Robert Nagila 丨 CCTV.com

09-26-2016 10:27 BJT

To Kenya, where a project to categorize and document the country's plant-life is, quite literally, bearing fruit. The venture brings together Chinese and Kenyan scientists who hope to document more than 7-thousand plant species there.

We're deep in the hearth of the Shimba Hill National Reserve - just south of the city of Mombasa. A small scientific expedition Is making its way to the dense part of the forest. These Chinese and Kenyan scientists are putting together a database of the country's flora.

Botany students also form part of the exhibition. After a plant species is identified, it's catalogued, photographed, and sample is taken.

"We plan to spend two or three years documenting all the different types of vegetation in Kenya, conducting field investigations and to collect species of different plants and also we would like to survey the field diversity of plants in different areas," said Wang Qinfeng, researcher of Chinese Academy of Sciences.

The last time this was done was in the 1930s. It's believed a comprehensive flora survey will need at least 10 years to complete.

Experts say, about 7,000 plant species are found here, in Kenya. 20% of those are found around the shimba hills area. And they say, in terms of discovery, they have hardly scratched the surface.

Already the team's discovered two new plant species. Their findings have been published.

"I think for botanists in exploration, discovering a new species is the greatest thing that could happen. When you have been studying a group of plants for a while, you begin to know what the members look like and when you see a strange member then you have an idea that it could be new," said Goddfrey Meachala, botanist of National Museums of Kenya.

The first 20 published volumes are expected in 2017. The research is aimed at not only documenting plant species - but saving Kenya's natural resources too.

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