Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Purdue Herbarium -- A Noah's Ark

Date:
April 21, 1998
Source:
Purdue University
Summary:
As Egyptians carve out more living space by irrigating the desert, Purdue University researchers are helping inventory and preserve plants that otherwise might be lost as the water flows in.

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- As Egyptians carve out more living space by irrigating the desert, Purdue University researchers are helping inventory and preserve plants that otherwise might be lost as the water flows in.Almost 90 percent of Egypt's 62 million people live on just 4 percent of its territory, a narrow swath of land along the Nile River. Population density along the water's edge is 5,000 people per square mile. Beyond them lies desert.

By bringing water to the desert, the Egyptians hope to reclaim land in the "New Valley" for agriculture. By the year 2001, Egyptians will complete a 40-mile canal that pumps water from Lake Nasser in the south to more than 415,000 acres of desert in the central section of the country.

"There are two ways to look at it," says Anthony Swinehart, curator of the Purdue Department of Botany and Plant Pathology's Arthur and Kriebel Herbaria, which houses a cataloged collection of dried plants. "In Biblical times the area was vegetated, so you could look at it as taking back the desert and restoring it to its former glory." Swinehart and others, however, recognize that irrigation and agriculture could destroy some native plants and animals.

Swinehart is one of several Purdue researchers who will visit the New Valley in May to count and identify the desert plants before irrigation begins. The group is working with Sayed Khalifa, professor of plant taxonomy and flora at Ain Shams University in Abbaseyya, Egypt. Khalifa also serves as a consultant to the National Biodiversity Unit of the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency.

This first phase of the project is funded by a Global Initiative Faculty Grant from Purdue.

"There never has been an inventory of that area that could give us a baseline when we try to judge the ecological impact of this project," says Bill Chaney, a physiological ecologist who heads the Purdue team. "And if you don't know what you started with, you won't know what you've lost."

On this trip, the group will just begin to inventory the plants that populate the desert. They'll travel by camel or Land-Rover to the desert interior, checking how many plants grow per square mile. That information, coupled with satellite imagery, aerial photography and global positioning systems operated by Guofan Shao, a remote sensing scientist at Purdue, will let them set up a more detailed sampling plan. Abdelfattah Nour, Purdue professor of basic medical sciences, speaks Arabic and will coordinate activities between the American research team and Egyptian officials. Nour also will help determine if the land can support livestock.

Swinehart will make a second trip to Egypt to count plant species at each sampling site and to preserve representative plants for herbaria in Egypt and at Purdue. He'll also make maps that show where each plant species grows. After the New Valley is irrigated, researchers will again analyze the vegetation to see how things have changed.

"Purdue's Herbarium will be the only repository in the Western Hemisphere for this collection," Swinehart says. "It's a valuable research tool for this project and for scientists in the United States who want to study how changes in land use affect vegetation. And the collection will add notoriety to our herbarium, which is already recognized as one of the best in the world."

Swinehart's herbarium specimens also are a safeguard, in case New Valley progress kills native species. Seeds in the herbarium often can germinate and grow -- even after years of storage in dry herbarium-cabinets. A student currently working in Swinehart's laboratory is researching the possibility of germinating seeds that have lain dormant in the Purdue Herbarium for 150 years.

"Herbarium specimens can also tell us about pollutants in the environment," Swinehart says. "We can look for levels of a certain pollutant in plant tissues collected today and compare that to levels of the same pollutant in tissues of similar plants collected years ago. The comparison can tell you how pollution levels have changed."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Purdue University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Purdue University. "Purdue Herbarium -- A Noah's Ark." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 April 1998. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/04/980421080140.htm>.
Purdue University. (1998, April 21). Purdue Herbarium -- A Noah's Ark. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/04/980421080140.htm
Purdue University. "Purdue Herbarium -- A Noah's Ark." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/04/980421080140.htm (accessed August 22, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Friday, August 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Drug Used To Treat 'Ebola's Cousin' Shows Promise

Drug Used To Treat 'Ebola's Cousin' Shows Promise

Newsy (Aug. 21, 2014) — An experimental drug used to treat Marburg virus in rhesus monkeys could give new insight into a similar treatment for Ebola. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Terrifying City-Dwelling Spiders Are Bigger And More Fertile

Terrifying City-Dwelling Spiders Are Bigger And More Fertile

Newsy (Aug. 21, 2014) — According to a new study, spiders that live in cities are bigger, fatter and multiply faster. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Lost Brain Cells To Blame For Sleep Problems Among Seniors

Lost Brain Cells To Blame For Sleep Problems Among Seniors

Newsy (Aug. 21, 2014) — According to a new study, elderly people might have trouble sleeping because of the loss of a certain group of neurons in the brain. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ramen Health Risks: The Dark Side of the Noodle

Ramen Health Risks: The Dark Side of the Noodle

AP (Aug. 21, 2014) — South Koreans eat more instant ramen noodles per capita than anywhere else in the world. But American researchers say eating too much may increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease and stroke. (Aug. 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins