Afghanistan botanic diversity

This video from the USA says about itself:

Celebrated Afghani Singer Finds Asylum Restoring Native Plants at Stagecoach Vineyard

Some mornings, master gardener Isshan Momman sits above the Napa Valley fog line, beside the acacia trees and watches the golden eagles fly across Stagecoach Vineyards as he thinks about God, his music and his escape from Afghanistan. Momman is one of 60,000 Afghan refugees living in California.

Dr. Jan Krupp recruited Momman, the rebab-playing, songwriting godsend with the green thumb who is now replanting over 2,000 native holly-leaf ceanothus among a 1108 acres plot of vineyard land, dirt and rock known as Stagecoach Vineyard.

But once upon a time, Momman produced, composed and sang Pashto music for Afghanistan TV.

By Kate Clark:

Afghanistan is particularly rich in flowering plants. This may be counter-intuitive, given how relatively dry the country is, but there are far more species and sub-species here than, for example, in damper central Europe which is much more favourable for plant growth. 4500 flowering plants have been identified so far in Afghanistan and many more, it is believed, are yet to be found and named.

A particularly high proportion of those plants, 30 per cent – are endemic, ie they are found nowhere else in the world. By way of comparison, the British Isles has only a handful of endemic species out of about 1700 flowering plants. Unlike Britain, where each new ice age tended to wipe the land clean of species, Afghanistan’s valleys acted as refuges for plants. That allowed them, over millions of years, to evolve into a multiplicity of new species, specially adapted to very local conditions. As Breckle and Rafiqpoor point out, this is evidence of the ‘major importance of the Afghan/Central Asiatic area as a very old and major centre of development and evolution in flowering plants, at all levels, family, genus, species.’ (The same pattern is true for Afghanistan’s fauna – which has more species of vertebrates than Europe does.)

In Afghanistan, the old geology and wide diversity of habitats has also contributed to diversity. Habitats range from the high mountains of the north-east which rise to 7000m to the deserts of Helmand at about 500m: there are alpine meadows, some dense forests, although rapidly receding due to logging and fire wood collection, pistachio and juniper woodland, and steppes and arid deserts and even sub-tropical semi-deserts.

The result is startling biodiversity. There are more than 600 species of legumes/pea family, including the spiny cushion plants (Astragulus) so typical of much of the Afghan landscape with 380 endemic species; there are more than 500 Compositae/daisy family, including 144 types of thistle alone, 93 of which are endemic to Afghanistan; also, 225 species of the Cruciferae/cabbage family. Then there is the Labiatae/mint family with 205 species, including more than 40 species of cat mint (Nepeta), 24 of clary (Salvia), as well as thyme (Thymus), mint (Mentha) and marjoram (Origanum). Other families producing spectacle and beauty are the lillies (Liliaceae) with 156 species, including 15 species of tulips and 65 of onions and the irises (Iridaceae), with more than 30 species.

Let us hope that not too many of those plants will die because of bombs exploding or tanks riding over them. And that not too many of the trees will be cut down as Afghan people, desperately poor because of the war, see no alternative to them as fuel.

5 thoughts on “Afghanistan botanic diversity

  1. Pingback: Even US hawks don’t believe in Afghan war | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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