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Table of Content
    Volume 28 Issue 3
    20 March 2020
    Wild Plant with Extremely Small Populations (WPESP) is national endangered species in urgent need of priority rescue. This issue introduces the research progress in some typical WPESP. The pictures are some representative species of WPESP from China, which are (starting at the upper left corner, moving horizontally and downward) Hopea hainanensis (photo by Qing Chen), Thuja sutchuenensis (by Aili Qin), Taxus cuspidata (by Jingwen Li), Taxus fuana (by Yaobin Song), Sinojackia huangmeiensis (by Mingxi Jiang), Dayaoshania cotinifolia (by Songjun Zeng), Metasequoia glyptostroboides (by Bing Liu), and Paphiopedilum helenae (by Songjun Zeng).
      
    Editorial
    Research progress in Wild Plant with Extremely Small Populations in China
    Runguo Zang
    Biodiv Sci. 2020, 28 (3):  263-268.  doi:10.17520/biods.2020119
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    Original Papers
    Sex ratio and spatial pattern of Taxus fuana, a Wild Plant with Extremely Small Populations in Tibet
    Yaobin Song, Li Xu, Junpeng Duan, Weijun Zhang, Xiaolu Shentu, Tianxiang Li, Runguo Zang, Ming Dong
    Biodiv Sci. 2020, 28 (3):  269-276.  doi:10.17520/biods.2019102
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    Dioecious plant populations possess sex ratio and gender distribution of individuals, which are important for individual reproduction, population viability, natural regeneration and maintenance of genetic diversity. This is particularly true for rare and endangered dioecious ones. In China, Taxus fuana is among the 120 Wild Plant with Extremely Small Populations (WPESP) and observed only in the Jilong County of Tibet Autonomous Region. However, little has been reported about its population ecology, especially about its sex ratio and gender spatial distribution pattern of individuals. We did a field investigation for six T. fuana populations in Jilong and recorded 1,651 male and 1,231 female individuals in total, whereby its sex ratio and gender spatial distribution pattern of individuals per population were analyzed. Our results showed that Jipu (male/female = 1.89) and Kaire (male/female = 1.39) populations tended to be male-biased (P < 0.001), but male and female individuals from the six populations showed weak spatial association. Individuals of smaller size of Jilong and Kaire populations showed significantly male-biased, while male biased occurred medium size of Jipu population. In summary, T. fuana populations were different in size structure distribution, sex ratio, size structure of male and female individuals, and their spatial patterns. Our study suggests that it is necessary to carry out targeted conservation considering different population characteristics, disturbance types, and environmental factors.

    Impacts of microhabitats on leaf functional traits of the wild population of Sinojackia huangmeiensis
    Shitong Wang, Yaozhan Xu, Teng Yang, Xinzeng Wei, Mingxi Jiang
    Biodiv Sci. 2020, 28 (3):  277-288.  doi:10.17520/biods.2019118
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    Plant functional traits and stoichiometry characteristics can reflect differences in plant strategies to microenvironmental changes. In this study, we used a one-way ANOVA and Bayesian ANOVA to compare leaf functional traits, intraspecific variation, and leaf stoichiometry of Sinojackia huangmeiensis at three microhabitats (lakeside, population center, and cropland side) next to Longgan Lake, central China. Our results showed that: (1) There were no significant differences in soil C, N and P concentrations among the three microhabitats (P > 0.05), but soil C : N and C : P were significantly different (P < 0.05). (2) The results of one-way ANOVA and Bayesian ANOVA were similar when we compared mean values of leaf functional traits of S. huangmeiensis among the three microhabitats. Leaf length, leaf area, and specific leaf area were all significantly higher at population center than those at lakeside (P < 0.05), while the three leaf traits at cropland side were not different with those at lakeside or population center (P > 0.05); The leaf N content at lakeside was significantly higher than that at population center and cropland side (P < 0.05), but it was not different between population center and cropland side (P > 0.05); Leaf width, ratio of leaf length to leaf width, leaf dry matter content, leaf C content, and leaf P content were not significantly different among the three microhabitats (P > 0.05). (3) Leaf N : P of S. huangmeiensis at lakeside was significantly higher than that at population center and cropland side (P < 0.05). Leaf C : N at lakeside was significantly smaller than that at population center and cropland side (P < 0.05). Both leaf N : P and C : N were not different between population center and cropland side (P > 0.05). Leaf C : P was not different among the three microhabitats (P > 0.05). (4) The overall variation of leaf functional traits of S. huangmeiensis was between 0.02 and 0.28. Bayesian ANOVA showed that both leaf C and N contents had low degrees of intraspecific variation in lakeside and population center. (5) Sinojackia huangmeiensis’ growth was promoted by different factors at the varying microhabitats. Our results indicate that S. huangmeiensis strategies at three microhabitats were different and not single-trait dependent, but trade-off dependent to achieve a better adaptive effect.

    Habitat characteristics and its effects on seedling abundance of Hopea hainanensis, a Wild Plant with Extremely Small Populations
    Xinghui Lu, Runguo Zang, Yi Ding, Jihong Huang, Yue Xu
    Biodiv Sci. 2020, 28 (3):  289-295.  doi:10.17520/biods.2019143
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    Hopea hainanensis, a Wild Plant with Extremely Small Populations (WPESP), is a dominant species in the lowland rainforest on Hainan Island, China. Hopea hainanensis has populations well below minimum viable limits and is now at high extinction risk due to difficulties in regeneration and severe anthropogenic disturbances, such as commercial logging and shifting cultivation. Understanding the habitat requirements and regeneration limitations of H. hainensis is a critical first step to rescue and restore its natural population sizes. Here, based on observations and measurements of wild populations of H. hainanensis, we analyzed the effects of abiotic and biotic environmental factors on seedling abundance. Hopea hainanensis populations exhibited a severe recruitment limitation from the seedling to sapling lifestage. Seedlings occurred most often in habitats with low slope, high soil water content and soil available phosphorus with nearby mother trees with large DBH or crowns and around various species with moderate basal areas. Seedling abundance was negatively correlated with slope and soil pH. Our results provide rationale and direction for proper in situ conservation and population restoration of H. hainanensis.

    Adaptive strategies of functional traits of Metasequoia glyptostroboides parent trees to changing habitats
    Jun Chen, Lan Yao, Xunru Ai, Jiang Zhu, Manling Wu, Xiao Huang, Siyi Chen, Jin Wang, Qiang Zhu
    Biodiv Sci. 2020, 28 (3):  296-302.  doi:10.17520/biods.2019099
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    Functional trait variability and phenotypic plasticity are the main mechanisms plants use to respond to heterogeneous habitats. These can determine how well a plant grows and where it is distributed. In the Xingdoushan National Nature Reserve, we assessed the response of the functional traits of a population of Metasequoia glyptostroboides parent trees to tree morphology, terrain factors and human disturbance. We found that the leaf area (LA), leaf dry weight (LDW) and specific leaf area (SLA) had large variation and great plasticity, while leaf dry matter content (LDMC) and twig dry matter content (TDMC) were more stable. Human disturbance and the four terrain factors together explained 5%-20% of variance for each functional trait, and crown size explained 38% and 76% of the variation in TDMC and LDMC, respectively. The five functional traits were mainly affected by altitude, slope aspect and human disturbance. The SLA responded slightly to environmental factors and disturbance pattern, while LA and LDW generally increased with strong disturbance. LDMC and TDMC were most sensitive to change in slope aspect. Taken together, the population of M. glyptostroboides parent trees demonstrated significant plasticity in response to the environment through its variability in functional traits. Because human disturbance had a great influence on the growth of these trees, artificial regeneration is recommended, and the impact of agriculture and human construction needs to be reduced.

    The reproductive characteristics of core germplasm in a native Metasequoia glyptostroboides population
    Manling Wu, Lan Yao, Xunru Ai, Jiang Zhu, Qiang Zhu, Jin Wang, Xiao Huang, Jianfeng Hong
    Biodiv Sci. 2020, 28 (3):  303-313.  doi:10.17520/biods.2019194
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    In order to explore the reproductive characteristics of Metasequoia glyptostroboides, we explored a native population of original Metasequoia glyptostroboides. We investigated the core germplasm of 40 individuals of native Metasequoia glyptostroboides and collected data on habitats, parent trees and seed traits. We used field experiment to analyze reproductive characteristics. We detected differences in seed traits, germination rate and seedling growth characteristics among different parent trees using ANOVA. The effects of individual traits on seeds, germination rate and seedling growth were analyzed with correlation and linear regression models. The results showed that: (1) There were only 7 strains from 40 mother trees, the seed yield rate was 17.50%, and the difference in seed yield of 7 original mother trees was significant (P < 0.05). (2) There were significant differences in seed weight (1,000 grain), seed germination rate, seedling survival rate and base diameter growth among individuals of different parent trees (P < 0.05). (3) The average germination rate of seeds from seven mother trees was 19.73%, and the average survival rate of seedlings was 73.42% (inter-individual rates were also significantly different (P < 0.05). (4) Diameter at breast height (DBH) was negatively correlated with seed weight and germination rate (P < 0.05), while seed germination and seed weight (P < 0.05), seed germination and seedling survival (P < 0.001), and tree height and seedling survival (P < 0.05) were positively correlated. (5) The height of mother tree was positively correlated to seedling survival rate (P < 0.05), and DBH was negatively correlated to seed germination rate (P < 0.05); and (6) Seedling growth (height and base diameter) conforms with logistic growth (R 2 ≥ 0.928).

    Phenotypic fruit and seed variations of Acer catalpifolium, a Wild Plant with Extremely Small Populations in China
    Qiuhong Feng, Dengfeng Li, Tao Yu, Junqing Li, Wenbao Ma, Lei Zhang
    Biodiv Sci. 2020, 28 (3):  314-322.  doi:10.17520/biods.2019091
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    Phenotypic variation can indicate the adaptation of plant species to different environmental conditions due to long-term evolution. Acer catalpifolium is a relatively primitive species in Aceraceae family, and is a rare and endangered species in China. To understand the range of phenotypic variation of A. catalpifolium’s fruits and seeds, 11 traits for 47 individuals from five natural small populations of A. catalpifolium were measured and parameterized using coefficients of variance, variation, and correlation. The results showed significant differences in phenotypic variation among and within populations. Overall variation was greater within population (63.11%) than among populations (23.61%) while the mean phenotypic differentiation coefficient was 27.23% among populations, larger than other species in Aceraceae. The average variation coefficient of seed thickness (ST) was the highest (40.64%), followed by fruit stalk length (FSL); thousand-fruit weight (TFW) was the smallest and the most stable phenotypic trait (1.57%). The Dujiangyan population has the highest phenotypic diversity and Pingwu population the lowest. Meteorological factors were not associated to fruit and seed size variations of A. catalpifolium. The fruits of the Leibo population were largest while the seeds of Pingwu population were the biggest. These two populations also have the thickest seeds. Fruit/seed size is considered as an indicator of quality, because bigger fruit/seed could provide more nutrients for next generations, therefore, the Leibo and Pingwu populations should be the priority when collecting germplasms of A. catalpifolium.

    Physiological and morphological effects of different canopy densities on reintroduced Acer catalpifolium
    Yuyang Zhang, Tao Yu, Wenbao Ma, Fei Wang, Cheng Tian, Junqing Li
    Biodiv Sci. 2020, 28 (3):  323-332.  doi:10.17520/biods.2019190
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    The reintroduction of an endangered plant is an effective way to increase its wild plant populations. Suitable habitat is a necessary condition for reintroduced species to survive. Studying the adaptability of a plant’s physiology to different habitats prior to reintroduction is key for evaluating how successful the endangered species would be in each habitat. In this study, Acer catalpifolium, a Wild Plant with Extremely Small Populations (WPESP), was studied to explore the effects of habitat conditions on the morphological traits, photosynthetic characteristics, flavonoid index and chlorophyll contents of A. catalpifolium seedlings. The habitat conditions, no shading, forest edge, gap and understory, are ordered in a gradient from low to high canopy density. The results show that: (1) The change in canopy density correlated with the differences in base diameter, crown width and number of new branches. (2) The maximum single leaf area and single leaf mass were found in the forest edge habitat, and the specific leaf area increased as canopy density increased. (3) With increasing canopy density, intercellular CO2 concentration, transpiration rate and stomatal conductance of A. catalpifolium showed an initial decrease before increasing. In contrast, the flavonoid index showed an initial increase before decreasing. Chlorophyll content showed a consistent upward trend. In summary, the light conditions of forest edge habitat make it more suitable than the other habitats in this study for the reintroduction of A. catalpifolium. This study establishes a theoretical and practical basis for field reintroductions of A. catalpifolium, and provides significant guidance for exploring suitable habitat for the reintroduction of other Wild Plant with Extremely Small Populations.

    Community structure and dynamics of a remnant forest dominated by Thuja sutchuenensis after deforestation
    Zhixia Zhao, Changming Zhao, Shuyu Deng, Guozhen Shen, Zongqiang Xie, Gaoming Xiong, Junqing Li
    Biodiv Sci. 2020, 28 (3):  333-339.  doi:10.17520/biods.2019235
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    As forests are destroyed, remaining habitats may have too little area to sustain viable populations as extinction follows forest loss or fragmentation. Thuja sutchuenensisis, a typical Wild Plant with Extremely Small Populations (WPESP), once been declared extinct in the wild, were rediscovered in 1999. However, recent deforestation is a major threat to T. sutchuenensisis survival. Few studies have explored community responses by T. sutchuenensisis to long-term logging. Here, we quantified the population size, population viability, and community composition of the remaining T. sutchuenensisis forests following illegal and severe logging, based on three surveyed datasets on the permanent plots in 2004, 2010 and 2016, respectively. The results show that remaining T. sutchuenensisis seedlings and saplings had increased by 85.71% after 13 years of illegal logging. The population survival rate of T. sutchuenensisis decreased by 25.43%, in contrast, the death density and extinction risk rate increased by 24.12% and 28.62%, respectively. Meanwhile the species richness and the Shannon-Wiener index of the community showed an increase with 96.43% and 33.35% after 13 years of logging. The results demonstrate that the population viability and the dominance of T. sutchuenensisis in the remaining community show strong decline, and the coniferous and broad-leaved mixed forest dominated by T. sutchuenensisis is likely to be replaced by broad-leaved forest. Our results also have important implications for small population conservation, given that the remaining forest may play a unique role in the persistence of T. sutchuenensisis.

    Comparison of five associations of Taxus cuspidata and their species diversity
    Dan Liu, Zhongling Guo, Xiaoyang Cui, Chunnan Fan
    Biodiv Sci. 2020, 28 (3):  340-349.  doi:10.17520/biods.2019112
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    Taxus cuspidata is a rare and endangered species in China. Understanding the composition and characteristics of its natural communities is of great significance for its conservation, utilization and restoration. In this study, with hierarchical clustering based on species composition, we classified 20 plots of 40 m × 40 m in Jilin Province into five associations, which were named after dominant species, respectively, i.e., I. Maianthemum bifolium-Schisandra chinensis + Actinidia kolomikta-Tilia amurensis + Abies nephrolepis, II. Aegopodium alpestre-Actinidia kolomikta-Abies nephrolepis, III. Thalictrum ichangense-Actinidia kolomikta-Abies nephrolepis, IV. Maianthemum bifolium-Actinidia arguta-Pinus koraiensis + Tilia amurensis + Abies nephrolepis, and V. Maianthemum bifolium-Actinidia arguta-Tilia amurensis + Abies nephrolepis. The composition, community structure, association type, and species diversity were analysized. Species diversity was indicated by the Menhinick richness index, Pielou evenness index, Simpson dominance index and Shannon-Wiener diversity index. The results suggested that the Rosaceae genera comprised a large majority of T. cuspidata communities. The diversity index of the five associations ranked as Assoc. V > Assoc. III > Assoc. IV > Assoc. II > Assoc. I. Assoc. I and Assoc. II had lower diversity and higher dominance. The differences in the diversity indices of the arbor layers in associations II and association III were not significant, but the dominance index and the richness index demonstrated an opposite trend. However, the richness was higher and the dominance was lower in association III. The herb layer’s diversity index was higher than the arbor layer’s in association III so that the coverage in association III was lower in community. Both Assoc. IV and Assoc. V were located in Huanggou Forest Farm in Helong City. With the rise in altitude, the species diversity decreases. It showed that there were significant differences in the community characteristics of T. cuspidata communities with different dominant species.

    Interspecific association of woody plant species and community stability in the Eleutharrhena macrocarpa habitat
    Shuaifeng Li, Xuedong Lang, Xiaobo Huang, Wande Liu, Jianrong Su, Chonghua Xu, Zhihong Li, Fandi Xu
    Biodiv Sci. 2020, 28 (3):  350-357.  doi:10.17520/biods.2019094
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    Eleutharrhena macrocarpa, an endangered liana species, experiences population regeneration barriers in natural environments. Due to its endangered status, this species has been heavily researched to understand the mechanisms behind its rarity. In this study, we studied E. macrocarpa populations in the tropical seasonal rainforest of Taiyanghe Provincial Nature Reserve in Pu’er City, Yunnan Province to find successful protecting methods for a wild plant species with extremely small populations. Utilizing various community stability and interspecific competition metrics (the Godron stability index, Chi-square analysis, Pearson correlation), the results showed that the woody plant populatios of tree layer indicated significant positive correlation based on the value of variance ratio more than one (test statistic W > χ0.05(29)). Similarly, the woody plant populations of shrub layer indicated that no significant negative correlation and the variance ratio is less than 1 (χ0.95(29) < W < χ0.05(29)). Further, Chi-square test indicated that no association species pairs represented the most populations in the tree and shrub layer, and the ratios of positive and negative correlations were 0.238 and 0.279, respectively. Simultaneously, association coefficient suggested that significant and extremely significant negative species pairs were more than positive species pairs, while Pearson correlation coefficient indicated that the ratios of the positive and negative correlation were 0.376 and 0.511, respectively. We found that the association relationship of most species pairs showed no significant correlation, which mean a relative stronger interspecific independence. Eleutharrhena macroarpa population has similar adaptive niche with most woody plant populations in the tree layer, and they survived together through effective resource utilization. However, Eleutharrhena macrocarpa population had stronger competition with some species in the shrub layer. In addition, intersection point of community stability (33.92, 66.07) in the vegetative community of Eleutharrhena macrocarpa habitat suggested that the community displayed a better stability. The stronger interspecific competition between dominant species and other species also suggested the vulnerability of tropical seasonal rain forest. Therefore, strict protection of the habitat was crucial to the regeneration of Eleutharrhena macrocarpa population and biodiversity conservation.

    Reviews
    Population viability analysis of Wild Plant with Extremely Small Populations (WPESP): Methods, problems and prospects
    Dongdong Chen, Zhenqing Li
    Biodiv Sci. 2020, 28 (3):  358-366.  doi:10.17520/biods.2019179
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    Environmental change and anthropogenic disturbance have a significant impact on population persistence. Therefore, it is essential to predict population dynamics under multiple stresses. Population viability analysis (PVA) is an effective method for assessing threats, extinction risk and bottlenecks, and the likelihood of recovery. By combining data and models, PVA accommodates different types of variables and can offer appropriate advice for conservation. However, demographic parameters of Wild Plant with Extremely Small Populations are difficult to estimate, which makes the statistical power of these models quite low. Here, we offer some underlying PVA methods for Wild Plant with Extremely Small Populations using non-statistical theory with small sample sizes and population adaptive potential analysis. Methods based on the non-statistical theory can enhance the accuracy of parameter estimation in small populations, while the eco-evolutionary elements help to uncover mechanisms of population adaptation and predict population dynamics. These methods provide more appropriate guidance for the conservation of Wild Plant with Extremely Small Populations.

    Applications of molecular markers in conserving endangered species
    Yuanyuan Li, Chaonan Liu, Rong Wang, Shuixing Luo, Shouqian Nong, Jingwen Wang, Xiaoyong Chen
    Biodiv Sci. 2020, 28 (3):  367-375.  doi:10.17520/biods.2019414
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    Molecular markers have been widely applied in the conservation of endangered species for revealing their population genetic variation and evolutionary history, providing essential information for making conservation strategies and conducting restoration practices. Here, we introduced the applications of molecular markers at different stages of conservation efforts: (1) Molecular markers can be used to elevate the precision of identifying conservation units such as excluding the influence of cryptic species and hybridization. (2) Phylogenetic relationships are useful for distinguishing conservation priorities for biodiversity hotspots and discerning species and populations. (3) Molecular markers can contribute to instruct the strategies in ex situ conservation programs. (4) Dynamic monitoring and assessment of conservation activities can be achieved with molecular markers. Finally, we discussed the prospects of applying molecular markers for improving conservation strategies considering global change, including long-term monitoring of genetic dynamics, the use of conservation genetics in conservation management, and the development conservation genomics.

    Informing conservation strategies with genetic diversity in Wild Plant with Extremely Small Populations: A review on gymnosperms
    Jinyuan Su, Yu Yan, Chong Li, Dan Li, Fang K. Du
    Biodiv Sci. 2020, 28 (3):  376-384.  doi:10.17520/biods.2019116
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    Genetic diversity is an important component of biodiversity. However, the overexploitation of natural resources and habitat fragmentation have severely degraded the genetic diversity of many affected species. Wild Plant with Extremely Small Populations (WPESP) are in urgent need of rescue, their genetic diversity are of great significance for studying the endangerment mechanism and providing conservation strategies. Habitat fragmentation might reduce genetic diversity, increase genetic differentiation among populations or limit gene flow. However, biological and ecological factors of threatened species, such as the reproductive characteristic and the demographic history, may also impact the genetic effects of recent habitat fragmentation. For gymnosperms, genetic composition can be quite stable when facing habitat fragmentation because of their lengthy generation time. However, in the long term, the loss of genetic diversity will be unrecoverable. In this review paper, we survey genetic studies of threatened gymnosperms, summarize endangerment mechanisms under habitat fragmentation, and finally recommend conservation strategies for gymnosperms. The findings of this paper indicate that a comprehensive understanding of the endangerment mechanisms through genetic diversity studies is important for effective and efficient conservation of Wild Plant with Extremely Small Populations.

    Breeding characteristics and artificial propagation of 14 species of Wild Plant with Extremely Small Populations (WPESP) in China
    Sha Deng, Yanni Wu, Kunlin Wu, Lin Fang, Lin Li, Songjun Zeng
    Biodiv Sci. 2020, 28 (3):  385-400.  doi:10.17520/biods.2020045
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    Reproduction is an important part of plant population renewal and maintenance. Threatened species including the Wild Plant with Extremely Small Populations (WPESP), are the result of a combination of internal factors, such as declines in reproductive ability and evolutionary longevity, and external factors, such as artificial over-harvesting and habitat destruction. Efficient artificial reproduction of WPESP can be used for ex situ conservation, reintroduction, and, in some cases, meet the demands of the commodities market, which underscores the need for protection and sustainable use of their germplasm. Seed propagation is the most effective method for maintaining genetic diversity in these speices. However, cutting, grafting and tissue culture are effective supplements for these species that are especially difficult to propagate from seed. Here, we report on the breeding characteristics and propagation methods of 14 typical speices of WPESP selected by our National Key Research Projects of China, and the progress of seedling propagation. A total of 230,000 seedlings from 12 species were produced via sowing, 33,100 seedlings from 5 species via cutting, 2,415 seedlings from 3 species including Manglietiastrum sinicum, Pyrus hopeiensis and Sinojackia huangmeiensis via grafting, 24,850 plantlets from 9 species via tissue culture. The results of this study provide a basis for the protection and use of these 14 species, providing a reference for other WPESP in China.


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