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Sent: 30 June 2005 08:14
Subject: 100: Re: Genetic diversity studies: Too much emphasis on markers
This is Kioumars Ghamkhar, again, addressing Miguel Toro's concerns (Message 99, June 29).There are many good reasons for using molecular markers for characterization and they are far more important than just being easier than morphological characterization (although I doubt that molecular characterisation is technically easier than morphological characterization):
However, exactly for reason number 5, it is a good idea to do both molecular and morphological characterization if there is enough time and money.
Regarding the need for some knowledge on the ancient history, I assume Miguel means some knowledge on the phylogenetic relationships. If so, then some knowledge on the sister groups of the study group is all the researcher needs unless it is a 'molecular clock" and/or population genetic study.
Dr Kioumars Ghamkhar
Centre for Legumes in Mediterranean Agriculture (CLIMA)
University of Western Australia
35 Stirling Highway
Crawley WA 6009
Voice: 61 8 6488 7120
Fax: 61 8 6488 1140
E-mail: kioumars (at) cyllene.uwa.edu.au
Sent: 30 June 2005 13:36
Subject: 101: Conservation/depletion of forest biodiversity - Nigeria
I am Adegoke Adedayo Oluawsegun, from the Centre for Energy Research and Development, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria.
In Nigeria at present the destruction of natural habitats continues apace, resulting in the depletion of the country's biodiversity. For example, the Nile crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus) which was once found in the Nigerian coastal waters right up to Lake Chad, is fast disappearing due to loss of habitat and the hunting of the crocodile for their meat, eggs and hide. Also in Southern Nigeria, the forest elephant, chimpanzee, leopard, yellow-backed duiker, the royal phyton, the Nigeria quenon (Cercophithecus erythorgaster) are among the animals on the endangered list. Forestry experts have reported that about 65 of Nigeria's 560 species of trees are now faced with extinction while many others are at different stages of risk. Every year a considerable part of the nation's forest resources are destroyed through industrialisation, commerce, agriculture and the activities of rural dwellers, thereby disturbing the balance that nature maintains with the living and non-living resources.
It brings some comfort to know that some governmental agencies and non-governmental agencies like the Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF), the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (FEPA), the National Resources Council (NARECO) in collaboration with the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) and the World Wide Fund (WWF) and several other Agencies have embarked on programmes to protect and preserve the nation's biodiversity. This is a good step in the right direction since there is an ethical demand on society to preserve the Nation's biodiversity for the future generations, for aesthetic values, for its economic and commercial value, for its pharmaceutical and medical prospects and also to protect and maintain the balance in the ecosystem.
This implies that biodiversity provides mankind with the source of food, fuel, clothing, medical and a host of other uses. For years, micro-organisms have been used for fermentation, drugs, preservation, DNA research, biotechnology, genetic engineering, tissue culture and a host of other purposes. An example is the armadillo. A leprous Armadillo showed response to leprosy drug tests. This animal is now being used to test efficacy of these drugs. It does not take much imagination to realise what the world would be like if these flora and fauna had been destroyed before their usefulness was discovered.
In Nigeria today a large population resides and works in rural areas. These rural dwellers are a major contributor to forest depletion. Agriculture is dominant in these areas. It has the greatest concentration of poverty, landless workers, small tenant farmers, small farm owners, the rural unemployed, and the poor of the poor in the nation. As a result of the poverty level in these areas, biodiversity provides for 90% of their needs, a fact which plays a major role in the destruction and depletion of native flora and fauna. One major way these rural dwellers affect the biosphere is through the use of firewood as the major source of household energy. 95% of these dwellers use firewood as they cannot afford fossil fuel. The demand for firewood has recently increased since the introduction of the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) in July 1986. This programme resulted in a move of more people back to the rural areas into agriculture. Poverty in this group further increased the demand for firewood.
The agricultural practices of peasant farmers brings further destruction to biodiversity. Slash-and-burn or shifting cultivation provides a basis for subsistent agriculture bringing about the burning of forests and bush, the depletion of nutrients and organic matter in the soil. This is inimical to the conservation of forests. The use of outdated equipment and low-yielding agricultural materials makes room for an over demand for land, resulting in more forest being cleared for planting crops and pasture.
Exploitation of the forest resources to generate (monetary) income in order to survive has resulted in the hunting of wildlife on an enormous scale. It is very common to see wildlife (bush meat) being hawked on our roads in Nigeria. These peasants are forced to hunt and trap animals in search of income, selling about 80% of the bushmeat they trap and consuming the rest. Most of those hunting wildlife in Nigeria have little or no economic alternative. The most hunted species is what is known as "The Grass Cutter" (Thryonomys swinderianus), followed by the African giant rat (Cricetomysgambianus) and then small antelopes.
Hunting, trapping and bush-burning to smoke out rodents from burrows brings about further devastation to the forest, to nature's biological web. Small-scale forest-based enterprise such as the use of bamboo for making baskets, canes for making furniture all contribute their own quota to the destruction of the biosphere. Indeed, most of the materials required for making cooking utensils, musical instruments, weapons, implements for fishing and hunting, clothes, adornments and games all come from the forest. Construction and maintenance of household structures in the rural areas also place their demand on wood, bamboo and grass.
The need for food - protein and other nutrients are mostly supplied through the forests. Many wild animals, fish and birds are caught for protein; providing up to 70% of their protein diet. Children collect termite, snails, and the caterpillars of several insects. They also collect ripe fruits, vegetables, mushrooms and different kinds of leaves from the forest in order to supplement their diet, while bees are smoked out of their hives for their honey.
Knowledge of the many uses of flora and fauna in their environment are passed down over generations. The seed of the wild mango (Irvingia gabonensis) is a very important delicacy for making sauces (Ogbono) in the Eastern and Western part of Nigeria. The baobab tree widely distributed through the savannah in Nigeria has several uses. The young leaves are used in sauces, the powdery pulp of the fruit capsules are fermented to make beverages while the bark and rind are used for rope fibre and for fuel. Many plants gathered serve as additional income. The leaves of Theumatococcus danielli is widely sold and used in the western part of the country as a wrapping material for food. Furthermore, about 80% of these rural dwellers depend on plants for treating ailments since many of them know no other medicines. Although hunting and gathering of animals and plants are necessary for survival, it is the unsustainable use of these resources that creates the problem for species threatened with extinction as these are not replaced.
Conservation programmes have been greatly hindered in Nigeria as a result of poaching. Compounding the problem is the simple fact that the communities in these reserve areas have a need for monetary income and they see little or no direct economic return to them as a result of the protection of these reserves. And many see the reserves as rightfully part of their land.
The Nigerian government remains preoccupied with economic problems such that they are unable to allocate enough resources for conservation, for research and monitoring of conservation programmes, for the creation of gene banks and education of the public concerning the importance of preserving the biosphere. However, it is in the field of creating wildlife reserves and forestry through tree-planting that Nigeria has made the most conscious and discernible effort towards conservation. But, tree planting only preserves a part of the original biodiversity in an environment, it does not result in a return of the vast and varied flora and fauna hitherto destroyed.
Fuelled by poverty, low levels of education and a weak knowledge of conservation, the rural poor cannot appreciate the need for preserving our environment. The same group the depends on the environment for many of its needs is thus often unrestrained in causing its destruction.
For any meaningful and lasting conservation programme to be effectively carried out there must be a conscious effort in involving the local people in maintaining and managing their environment since the needs of these dwellers must be respected. Any action to limit the use of the forests without providing an alternative to them or alleviating their poverty or lack of education will meet with a lot of problems as can be seen from the incessant activities of poachers on our wildlife reserves.
Adegoke Adedayo Oluawsegun,
Centre for Energy Research and Development,
Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife,
+234 803 403 1411
aoadegoke (at) yahoo.com
[Further messages on this topic should focus on the potential role (if any) that biotechnology could play for the conservation/characterisation of these forest genetic resources...Moderator].