Biodiv Sci ›› 2015, Vol. 23 ›› Issue (3): 419-425.  DOI: 10.17520/biods.2014183

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Plant species with extremely small populations (PSESP) and their significance in China’s national plant conservation strategy

Wenzhong Yang1,*, Zhenyong Xiang1, Shanshan Zhang1, Hongmei Kang1, Fuqiang Shi2   

  1. 1 Key Laboratory of Rare and Endangered Forest Plants of State Forestry Administration, Yunnan Academy of Forestry, Kunming 650201
    2 Pu’er Forestry Research Institute, Pu’er, Yunnan 665000
  • Received:2014-08-29 Accepted:2015-02-11 Online:2015-06-08 Published:2015-06-12
  • Contact: Yang Wenzhong


The National Implementation Plan for Rescuing and Conserving China’s Plant Species with Extremely Small Populations (PSESP) was formulated when the concept of PSESP was presented in recent years. However, the concept of PSESP has been controversial since its introduction and criticized as an inaccurate theory with little value to plant species conservation programs. To better understand the theory behind PSESP and relevant conservation strategies, we reviewed the history of plant conservation in China and summarized how conservation strategies regarding rare and endangered speceis, key protected species and PSESP were initiated. PSESP can be understood through the perspectives on species selection criteria, thresholds of the extremely small populations and connections to previous protected species lists. Conservation strategies and actions were compared across time scales. From this review, we suggest that population-based PSESP conservation exemplifies the essence of species protection, i.e., species are maintained through populations. To conserve PSESP, traditional methods such as plant inventory, in situ conservation and ex situ conservation need to be improved. New methods such as population demography, near situ or quasi in situ conservation and population restoration and reestablishment should be developed. Finally, we conclud that the theory of PSESP with its relevant conservation programs represents a milestone in China’s plant conservation, because it will enhance the interplay between conservation practice and scientific research.

Key words: rare and endangered plant species, key protected plant species, plant species with extremely small populations (PSESP), conservation strategy, population-based species conservation