A review of the genus Bulbophyllum in the Indo-Burma Biodiversity Hotspot

 

With over 1,800 species distributed throughout the Old and New World tropics and subtropics, Bulbophyllum is the largest genus in the orchid family and one of the three largest genera of all flowering plants. Because of its exceptional taxonomic diversity, with centres of diversity in New Guinea, the Indo-Burma region, East Africa and Madagascar, the genus has been widely used as a model for studies in speciation and biogeography. In addition, many species have very localised geographic ranges and exhibit highly specialised relationships with host trees, pollinators, mycorrhizal fungi and other environmental factors, making Bulbophyllum a rich source of information on plant adaptation and ecology. With the depletion of its native broadleaf forest throughout the tropics and the inevitable break-down in ecological interactions that this has entailed, many species of Bulbophyllum are now threatened with extinction in the wild.

Because of its cosmopolitan distribution and iconic status, efforts to conserve species of Bulbophyllum stand to benefit efforts in species and habitat protection more generally. Accordingly, work is underway at Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden in Hong Kong to clarify relationships and identify common factors involved in the decline and extinction of species in the wild. All native Hong Kong species will be barcoded, and spatial genetic structure will be investigated in the near-endemic B. bicolor to elucidate ecological processes at the population level. During the course of survey work throughout South China and neighbouring countries in the Indo-Burma region, material will be collected for morphological and genetic studies that aim to provide better resolution of species numbers, distribution, abundance and conservation status of species across the region.

Contact: Dr. G. Fischer, Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden, Hong Kong