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HerbalGram Special Sustainability and Conservation Issue Highlights Threat of Climate Crisis on Medicinal and Aromatic Plants

AUSTIN, Texas (November 25, 2019) — Rapidly warming temperatures, fluctuating precipitation patterns, and changing landscapes are having measurable negative effects on global flora, including medicinal and aromatic plants (MAPs). These impacts are described in the extensive cover article of issue 124 of HerbalGram, the quarterly, peer-reviewed scientific journal of the nonprofit American Botanical Council (ABC). This latest issue focuses on conservation and sustainability topics.

The cover article, titled “Plants in Peril: Climate Crisis Threatens Medicinal and Aromatic Plants,” was written by HerbalGram Associate Editor Hannah Bauman, Managing Editor Tyler Smith, and Assistant Editor Connor Yearsley. It comes 10 years after the publication of ABC’s comprehensive feature article on climate change and medicinal plants by then-Managing Editor Courtney Cavaliere in HerbalGram issue 81. The 2019 article highlights the latest climate data and explores new research findings related to its effects on plants in Arctic, alpine, rainforest, and island ecosystems, among others. As noted in the article, increasing temperatures are causing changes in secondary metabolite concentrations; disrupting plant lifecycles and native ranges; and threatening vulnerable populations on a global scale. These negative effects are compounded by existing pressures on medicinal plants, including overharvesting and habitat destruction. The 16-page article includes 52 references, color photos, and interviews with eight sources, many of whom were quoted in HerbalGram’s 2009 article.

Another extensive feature article reports on in situ cultivation and maintenance of non-timber woodland crops, known as forest farming, in eastern North America. The sustainability of popular wild-harvested Appalachian herbs such as black cohosh, American ginseng, and goldenseal has become a significant concern in recent years, and responsible forest farming practices may benefit parties at both ends of the supply chain by ensuring fair prices for harvesters and farmers and appealing to consumers who increasingly are seeking out ecofriendly products.

The special issue of HerbalGram also includes a guest editorial by medicinal plant conservation expert Josef Brinckmann titled “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?,” plus a research review on organic cacao agroforestry in Ghana, and an overview of a project dedicated to the sustainable harvesting of schisandra in China (which also benefits the iconic and vulnerable giant panda that shares habitat with schisandra), among other articles.

The publication of the special issue of HerbalGram coincides with a separate publication titled “Scientists’ Warning on Climate Change and Medicinal Plants” in the journal Planta Medica. The open-access article, which was written by ABC Advisory Board members Wendy Applequist, PhD, a botanist at the Missouri Botanical Garden, plus Brinckmann and other colleagues, highlights the timeliness and urgency of this important topic.

Issue 124 of HerbalGram is freely available on ABC’s website in HTML, PDF, and page-flip formats. HerbalGram is a benefit of ABC membership.