Biodiversity conservation in ASEAN covers a wide range of issues including taxonomy—the science of identifying and classifying species. Taxonomy is integral to conservation as it provides the very foundation for knowing and understanding species and their role in the ecosystem.
ASEAN has responded to the challenge of strengthening taxonomy in the region through the Taxonomic Capacity Building and Governance for Conservation and Sustainable Use of Biodiversity Project. Implemented in three phases from 2010-2016, the project conducted 18 training workshops and four (4) internship programs, following the Global Taxonomy Initiative (GTI) Regional Action Plan 2010–2015. Benefitting from these capacity building activities were 449 individuals from museums, herbaria, botanical gardens, academe, ASEAN Heritage Parks/protected areas, and government conservation agencies across all the 10 ASEAN Member States (AMSs). The following are some of the personal narratives from training recipients.
"I am a curator of monocot collections at Herbarium Bogoriense, so this training is very relevant to my daily responsibilities, as well as plant taxonomy of palms, mainly on rattans. I published one of my new species together with my colleagues, Dr. John Dransfield and Dr. Edwino Fernando, at Kew Bulletin in 2014.” – Himmah Rustiana, Herbarium Bogoriense, Indonesia
"Using the knowledge and skills I obtained from the training, I plan to assess the plants in Lao PDR, especially those in Nam Ha National Protected Area, Himnamno National Park, and Namtading National Park. Using the knowledge gained from the workshop, I will collect plant specimens for our herbarium at the National University of Laos, which at present, has more than 5,000 specimens. I continuously keep in touch with my co-trainees, share experiences, and request for references, especially the course outline for Botany and Taxonomy offered in other countries, including the topics required in the courses.” – Phetlasy Souladeth, National University of Laos, Lao PDR
“The training was relevant to my work at the Marine Park. It was well-organized. It was a mix of classroom lectures and hands-on training. The mini-project attracted me a lot.” – Mohammed Nizam Bin Ismail, Department of Marine Park Malaysia, Malaysia
“We are in the process of preparing a similar guidebook for plants in national parks in Sarawak. Preparing the guidebook together with other participants that are not from the same botany background was very interesting. They helped to capture interesting plant characters that are often overlooked by the botanists/taxonomists and they also assisted in reducing botanical terminologies used in describing the plants.” – Julia Sang, Sarawak Forestry Corporation, Malaysia
“The information I learned from the training activities are very useful in my work and studies since I am pursuing my graduate studies in Systematics. As a result of the training program, graduate and undergraduate students of the Biology Department of Central Mindanao University and Research Assistants were trained on the basic taxonomic identification and classification of pteridophytes (ferns and lycophytes) and bryophytes using the taxonomic keys and books provided during the training workshop in Bali, Indonesia and Chiang Mai, Thailand. The training also allowed me to build friendships, connections, and linkages with other nationalities for potential collaboration and/or consultation in the future.” – Fulgent P. Coritico, Central Mindanao University, Philippines
“The most memorable part of the trip was the ‘moss race,’ which Dr. Benito Tan especially organized to make the training more interesting. This saw us working in groups to collect as many species as possible per locality visited and then identifying these back at the laboratory. This experience trained my eyes for detail, and also provided an opportunity to be acquainted with the different species of bryophytes. To our surprise, our group won second prize.” – Woo Pui Min Henrietta, National Parks Board, Singapore
Overall, the trainings provided scientific knowledge and methods of species collection, identification, and specimen management. In addition, other significant outputs of the project included the development of four guidebooks and six training manuals, which were printed and distributed for reference to the AMSs. New discoveries were also made in the course of the taxonomy trainings—an undescribed species of palm was found by participants in the herbarium of Lembaga Ilmu Pengetahuan Indonesia (LIPI), and one new record each of bryophyte and pteridophyte were uncovered in northern Thailand.
The project was implemented by the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) and overseen by the ASEAN Working Group on Nature Conservation and Biodiversity (AWGNCB), with strong collaboration with and technical support from the Ministry of the Environment-Government of Japan (MoE-J), Biodiversity Center of Japan, and East and Southeast Asia Biodiversity Information Initiative (ESABII). It was supported by the Government of Japan through the Japan-ASEAN Integration Fund (JAIF).