|Date||11 Sep 2013|
With the support of Tbilisi Botanic Garden, the Institute of Botany and local guides , I will travel to Samegrelo district to search the area of Mt Migaria for Betula megrelica. A detailed search of the most likely areas on the slopes of Mt Migaria should uncover wild populations of this rare birch. I am one of the few botanists to have had the chance of studying both Betula megrelica and the closely related Betula medwedewii through all stages of the year, as they both grow in our National Collection.
Therefore I have a thorough knowledge of the characteristics of both species. We already know that Betula medwedewii exist on Mt Migaria and I am uniquely qualified to identify what is truly Betula megrelica. We believe some past collections mistook Betula medwedewii for Betula megrelica.
It is important that the Georgian botanical institutes have help in locating wild populations of Betula megrelica. Georgian forests face the threat of large scale logging (both legal and illegal) and overgrazing of large goat herds. I witnessed this on several occasions during my 2012 visit. Both these activities pose a great threat to the survival of any minority population, and being a relatively littleknown and slow-growing species, Betula megrelica is in danger of being unintentionally destroyed without anyone noticing.
Our project will locate and study the wild populations. We will do our best to assess the numbers and health of these populations, how well they are regenerating and whether they are being affected by the aforementioned human threats. If , as we suspect, these populations prove to be very small, then we will have gathered the evidence needed to put forward a plan to protect them.
The outcomes will be:-
2. Analysis of the molecular structure of these populations and confirm their identity.
3. Propagation of new generations of Betula megrelica to share around Botanic Gardens within Georgia and internationally. These plants may provide the genetic material necessary for any re-stocking in the wild if this proves to be necessary.
4. Highlight the dangers that many plants face within Georgia from indiscriminate human activities such as logging and over-grazing. It is hoped this will encourage the Georgian government to control such activities in a sustainable way.
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