Small steps lead to big initiatives: Pakistan reaffirms support for iBOL by launching PakBOL

Small steps lead to big initiatives: Pakistan reaffirms support for iBOL by launching PakBOL

Small steps lead to big initiatives: Pakistan reaffirms support for iBOL by launching PakBOL

From economically important insect species to plants to food security, Pakistani researchers are working to barcode all life in their country through a national initiative - PakBOL.

PakBOL inauguration with Margaux McDonald, Canada’s Senior Trade Commissioner in Pakistan (left) and Dr. Ghazala Yasmin, Vice Chancellor of Women University Mardan.

PHOTO CREDIT: Hina Jabeen

With continued interest in documenting native biodiversity and cognizance about the applications of barcode data, the scientific community in Pakistan has reiterated its support for the iBOL Consortium and its new venture BIOSCAN by launching the national initiative, Pakistan Barcode of Life (PakBOL).

PakBOL launched in the presence of more than 120 scientists, academicians, students, and other stakeholders in biodiversity and pest management sciences who gathered in Islamabad for the 3rd international conference on “Empowering Nation through Science” organized by the Women University Mardan.

PakBOL attended by Pakistani representatives from 15 universities and several government and non-government organizations
PHOTO CREDIT: Hina Jabeen

The two-day conference was attended by Pakistani representatives from 15 universities and several government and non-government organizations including Higher Education Commission, Directorate of Biodiversity, Ministry of Climate Change, Pakistan Agricultural Research Council, Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission, and Dairy Science Park.

International delegates were also in attendance, including the Canadian High Commission Islamabad, Oxford Brooks University (UK), International Foundation of Science (Sweden), Organization for Women in Science for Developing Countries (Italy), Centre for Biodiversity Genomics (Canada).

Pakistan has been an active member of iBOL since it joined the consortium in 2011, generating more than 50,000 barcode records. Over the last eight years, these efforts have provided coverage for 6,300 animal BINs (proxy for species) and 350 plant species.

Researchers sampling in the foothills of Kashmir, Pakistan.
PHOTO CREDIT: Muhammad Ashfaq

But the amount of barcode data generated so far pales in comparison with the species richness and size (882,000 km2) of the country. Most of the barcoding work in Pakistan has been carried out by a few labs with 99% of the generated data representing arthropods.

The very first barcoding project in Pakistan “Sequencing DNA barcodes of economically important insect species of Pakistan” conducted jointly by the National Institute for Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering, Pakistan, and the University of Guelph, Canada, successfully introduced DNA barcoding to the country producing 5,000 barcodes within the first year of its launch (2010 – 2012).

Although the resources available for the project were inadequate for large-scale barcode coverage of the country’s arthropod fauna, the project helped to create understanding among local researchers about barcoding science. The subsequent financial support from the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), through the University of Guelph, helped Pakistani researchers expand barcoding activities in the country, generate barcode data from other organisms including plants, and develop national networking opportunities. This helped Pakistan become a National Node in iBOL’s first research program BARCODE 500K and contributed to the documentation of biodiversity on the planet.

With continued interest in DNA barcoding research, Pakistan has formally joined as a member nation of the iBOL Consortium to participate in its global initiative – BIOSCAN. Pakistan is already participating in the Global Malaise Program led by the Centre for Biodiversity Genomics in Guelph and, with the launch of BIOSCAN, it plans to expand this program to all the ecoregions in the country. 

Participating in the Global Malaise Program from Lahore, Pakistan.
PHOTO CREDIT: Shahbaz Ahmad 

Balochistan University of Information Technology, Engineering and Management Sciences (BUITEMS), Quetta is leading the efforts to organize a network of universities and research organizations; their aim is to promote and strengthen barcoding research in Pakistan to achieve the goal of documenting all fauna and flora in the country.

Several universities in Pakistan, including BUITEMS, the University of Sargodha, GC University Lahore, University of Swat, University of Sindh Jamshoro, GC University Faisalabad, University of Rawalakot Azad Kashmir, Punjab University Lahore, LCWU Lahore, and Quaid-e-Azam University Islamabad have been involved in barcoding research but lack a common platform to coordinate barcoding activities. PakBOL will provide that platform to the barcoding community in Pakistan to coordinate efforts to achieve their common goal.

An initiative taken eight years ago with a small project on barcoding pest insects has now expanded to a national effort with a much broader goal – barcoding all life in Pakistan. And PakBOL aims to achieve just that!

Read more about Pakistan:

DNA BARCODING WILD FLORA IN PAKISTAN’S FORESTS

Preserving voucher specimens and creating a virtual herbarium to understand and protect some of the oldest living trees on the planet.

UNIVERSITY OF SINDH JAMSHORO BARCODES GRASSHOPPERS IN PAKISTAN’S THAR DESERT

Tracking the shift of non-pests to crop pests, a phenomenon accelerated by anthropogenic pressures in the Thar Desert.

Written by

Muhammad Ashfaq

Muhammad Ashfaq

Centre for Biodiversity Genomics, University of Guelph

June 10, 2019

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DNA Barcoding Wild Flora in Pakistan’s Forests

DNA Barcoding Wild Flora in Pakistan’s Forests

DNA Barcoding Wild Flora in Pakistan’s Forests

Preserving voucher specimens and creating a virtual herbarium to understand and protect some of the oldest living trees on the planet.
Juniper Forest of Ziarat, Balochistan, Pakistan.
PHOTO CREDIT: Nazeer Ahmed
Balochistan, the largest province of Pakistan, is endowed with a variety of natural forests. Juniper (Juniperus excelsa), Pinus (Pinus gerardiana), wild Olive (Olea sp.) and mangroves are the predominant forest ecosystems of the province. The versatility of life forms in these forests support dynamic ecosystems and provide several important ‘ecosystem services’ like food, medicines, climate regulation, genetic resources, recreation facilities, etc. Biodiversity conservation, in the face of such benefits, becomes imperative. Comprehensive cataloguing of flora and fauna is, by all means, at the heart of such conservation endeavours.

The Juniper forest of Ziarat, Balochistan, declared a UNESCO Man and Biosphere Reserve, is considered one of the world’s largest compact forests of its kind spreading over an area of 100,000 ha. Being some of the oldest living trees on earth, they are termed “Living Fossils”. The Chilgoza (Pinus gerardiana), also known as the Chilgoza Pine, on the other hand, are listed as lower risk, near threatened forest. Anthropogenic interferences have further aggravated the situation in this ecosystem and a more focused study about their current status is needed.

Juniper Forest of Ziarat, Balochistan, Pakistan.
PHOTO CREDIT: Nazeer Ahmed

Fragmented studies exist attempting to document the associated flora of these forests; however, a more comprehensive approach is needed. The use of DNA barcoding techniques, duly augmented by classical taxonomy, is necessary for the creation of a reference library to inventory, assess, and describe the biodiversity of these forests. To fill this gap, a study was designed to provide a foundation for future biodiversity assessment and conservation efforts.

 

Funded by Pakistan Agricultural Research Council and Higher Education Commission of Pakistan, our research group at the Balochistan University of Information Technology, Engineering & Management Sciences, Quetta is expecting to barcode and acquire samples of approximately 1,000 wild plant species. 

To date, 730 samples of 525 different species have been collected and 29% (150 of 525) have been barcoded. Besides maintaining voucher specimens, a virtual herbarium will be made available to the global scientific community interested in the flora of these forest ecosystems.

Read more about Pakistan:

SMALL STEPS LEAD TO BIG INITIATIVES: PAKISTAN REAFFIRMS SUPPORT FOR IBOL BY LAUNCHING PAKBOL

From economically important insect species to plants to food security, Pakistani researchers are working to barcode all life in their country through a national initiative – PakBOL.

UNIVERSITY OF SINDH JAMSHORO BARCODES GRASSHOPPERS IN PAKISTAN’S THAR DESERT

Tracking the shift of non-pests to crop pests, a phenomenon accelerated by anthropogenic pressures in the Thar Desert.

Written by

Nazeer Ahmed

Nazeer Ahmed

Balochistan University of Information Technology, Quetta, Pakistan

April 7, 2019
PDF
https://doi.org/10.21083/ibol.v9i1.5476

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University of Sindh Jamshoro Barcodes Grasshoppers in Pakistan’s Thar Desert

University of Sindh Jamshoro Barcodes Grasshoppers in Pakistan’s Thar Desert

University of Sindh Jamshoro Barcodes Grasshoppers in Pakistan’s Thar Desert

Tracking the shift of non-pests to crop pests, a phenomenon accelerated by anthropogenic pressures in the Thar Desert.
The Thar Desert is considered the seventh largest desert in the world and the third largest in Asia. Although this desert is rich in unique biodiversity, efforts to explore and analyze its fauna and flora have been minimal. The desert harbours some important crop pests, particularly orthopterans, by providing them alternate host plants, overwintering space, and environments for reproduction. The region provides favourable soil and environmental conditions for the survival of Acridids (grasshoppers and locusts). In particular, it supports the reproduction, development, and outbreak of the desert locust; the gregarious phase of locusts results in attacks on neighbouring regions that cause severe loss to crops and forests.

Cattle grazing in the Thar region.
Photo credit: Ahmed Ali Samejo

Around 20,000 orthopterans have been described in the world including 1,750 from India, but the number of known species in Pakistan is merely 161. Our recent surveys of the Thar region have revealed 29 species of grasshoppers that are new to the country indicating the rich grasshopper diversity of this desert.

With expanding agricultural fields, overgrazing and desertification, and changing ecological conditions, biodiversity is also changing. These changes are pushing non-pests to become crop pests, a phenomenon that warrants further investigation using reliable identification methods. An effective, preventive management strategy of these pests relies on an improved knowledge of their biology and ecology, and on more efficient monitoring and control techniques. The Department of Zoology at the University of Sindh Jamshoro has taken initiative to document and understand the grasshopper fauna in the Thar Desert by coupling DNA barcoding with conventional taxonomy.

Field surveys in the Thar Desert with Kumar, Riffat, & Samejo (left to right).
PHOTO CREDIT: Ahmed Ali Samejo

With funding support from the Higher Education Commission (HEC) Pakistan, the department plans to develop a DNA barcode reference library for grasshoppers in the Thar Desert of Pakistan. Grasshopper collection and specimen identification is already in progress and, so far, 2,334 specimens have been identified to 22 species while the identity of 300 specimens is yet to be resolved. After the front-end processing (data-basing, imaging, tissue sampling) at the University of Sindh Jamshoro is complete, the identified specimens will be barcoded at the Centre for Biodiversity Genomics, University of Guelph.

This is the first effort towards understanding grasshopper diversity in the Thar using DNA methods and developing a reliable reference library for this important group of pest insects. The generated data will not only be used for the rapid identification of grasshoppers and locusts, it will also provide a useful tool for pest management and biodiversity conservation.

Written by

Riffat Sultana

Riffat Sultana

Department of Zoology, University of Sindh Jamshoro, Pakistan

April 7, 2019
PDF
https://doi.org/10.21083/ibol.v9i1.5491

Comments

Read more about Pakistan:

SMALL STEPS LEAD TO BIG INITIATIVES: PAKISTAN REAFFIRMS SUPPORT FOR IBOL BY LAUNCHING PAKBOL

From economically important insect species to plants to food security, Pakistani researchers are working to barcode all life in their country through a national initiative – PakBOL.

DNA BARCODING WILD FLORA IN PAKISTAN’S FORESTS

Preserving voucher specimens and creating a virtual herbarium to understand and protect some of the oldest living trees on the planet.

Don't Miss Out!

Subscribe to the iBOL Barcode Bulletin for updates on DNA barcoding efforts, the iBOL Consortium, and more.