Climate change threatens to crowd out medicinal plants from Indonesia

  • More than half of the medicinal plant species in Indonesia will not be able to grow in most of their current range by 2050 due to climate change, according to a new study.
  • The researchers say that medicinal plant species from the islands of New Guinea, Java and Sulawesi will see the greatest reduction in their range, in part due to rising sea levels in these regions.
  • The economic value of medicinal plants in Indonesia, coupled with other threats and the lack of resources for their conservation, makes the establishment of active conservation programs urgent, according to the researchers.
  • Medicinal plants are valuable species not only for personal health but also for their economic value as they are traded by local and indigenous communities.

JAKARTA — More than half of Indonesia’s medicinal plant species will not be able to grow in most of their current range by 2050 due to the impacts of climate change, a new study has found.

Twenty-six of the 43 medicinal plant species examined by the study authors are projected to lose up to 80% of their range under future scenarios of medium and high greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and 2080, wrote a group of global experts. in the magazine Global Ecology and Conservation August 13.

Species from the islands of New Guinea, Java and Sulawesi are expected to experience the greatest reduction in range, in part due to sea level rise in those regions, the authors wrote in the journal. . Global Ecology and Conservation August 13.

“Our results predict that the number of medicinal plant species listed in the IUCN Red List threatened categories will increase under all future scenarios,” said lead author Ria Cahyaningsih, a botanist at the University of Birmingham. , UK, and the Indonesian Institute of Science (LIPI).

Dipterocarpus baudii. Image by Patrice Hugues via Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain).

Medicinal plants are valuable species not only for personal health but also for their economic value, as they are traded by local and indigenous communities. The Indonesian government calculated the economic value of medicinal plants in the country in 2013 at $14.6 billion. Globally, the herbal medicine trade in 2005 was worth more than $3 billion, with the World Health Organization estimating it will reach $5 trillion by 2050.

Indonesia is the largest archipelago country in the world and the most biodiverse in Southeast Asia. The country is home to about 10% of the world’s plant species. At least 80% of the medicinal plants of the Southeast Asian region are found in Indonesia, both native and introduced.

Climate change is not the only threat to medicinal plants, whose habitats are also disappearing due to deforestation. In one case, deforestation in Malaysia’s Borneo nearly eradicated a potential HIV drug before it was discovered.

For the recent study, scientists analyzed the impact of climate change on Indonesian medicinal plants using species richness, species loss and gain, turnover and threat level based on the List IUCN red.

The study also identified 20 species of medicinal plants as potentially most at risk from climate change in the future. Most of them are tree species (68.18%) and shrub species (18.18%), while the rest are grasses (9.09%) and vines (4 .54%). They understand Dipterocarpus baudii and Macaranga griffithiana (classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List); Agathis bornensis and Castanopsis argentea (endangered); Aquilaria malaccensis and Shorea seminis (Critical danger).

These medicinal plants are indigenous, some of them endemic, to Indonesia. They have a limited range and are harvested destructively (removal of root parts, bark or harvesting of the whole plant), and include species listed under international law.

Aquilaria malaccensis. Image by Vinayaraj via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0).

The economic value of medicinal plants in Indonesia, coupled with other threats and the lack of resources for their conservation, makes the establishment of active conservation programs urgent, according to the authors of the study.

“Effective in situ and ex situ conservation of Indonesian medicinal plant species should be a regional and global priority,” Cahyaningsih said.

They also call for conservation planning to start with species expected to become critically endangered in the future and in areas with the highest species loss, including the provinces of East Java, Sulawesi from the South and Papua.

“This will ensure their existence for utility and other research, such as ethnobotany, identification of medicinal plant compounds, and clinical experiments with medicinal plants in Indonesia, and regionally and globally,” said Cahyaningsih.

Agathis bornensis. Image by Patrice78500 for Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain).

Quote:

Cahyaningsih, R., Phillips, J., Magos Brehm, J., Gaisberger, H., & Maxted, N. (2021). Impact of climate change on medicinal plants in Indonesia. Global Ecology and Conservation. doi:10.1016/j.gecco.2021.e01752

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Biodiversity and medicine, Climate change, Climate change and biodiversity, Climate change and conservation, Climate change and forests, Conservation, Endangered species, Environment, Forestry, Forests, Green, Impact of climate change, Medicinal plants, Medicine, Protected areas , Rainforests, Traditional medicine, Rainforests, Fauna

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Alvin J. Chase