By Zhu Yueying, Yang Wenming
Working at the Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden (XTBG), a tourist attraction and research institute under the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), in southwest China’s Yunnan province, is a right choice, said Akihiro Nakamura, a Japanese entomologist who has worked there since 2013.
According to Nakamura, XTBG boasts rich biodiversity and is one of the botanical gardens in the world with the most outdoor plant species and the largest number of plant groups on public display, as well as an excellent environment for carrying out research into the ecology of insects.
“Besides, it has a friendly atmosphere for foreign researchers, so I decided to settle and pursue my career here,” he said, talking to People’s Daily about his job with great joy.
XTBG is an insect’s paradise located in Menglun township, Mengla county, Xishuangbanna Dai autonomous prefecture of Yunnan. A large number of insect species, including fireflies and butterflies, live there.
In 2013, Nakamura accepted the invitation of XTBG to serve as the leader and researcher of the canopy research team of the tropical botanical garden. Since then, he often climbs to the top of trees for the study of insects.
In 2019, Nakamura won the “Caiyun Award”, Yunnan’s highest honor for foreign experts, for his remarkable contributions to biodiversity conservation in China.
According to Nakamura, there are over 100 foreign researchers from more than 30 countries in XTBG. “We international researchers have the same access to research funds from the National Natural Science Foundation of China, the CAS, and the Chinese government as our Chinese colleagues,” he said.
Nakamura is conducting an international research project with scientists from the Czech Republic, Thailand, Brazil, and other countries to learn the variation of insect diversity with latitude and elevation and assess the impacts of climate change on global insect diversity and ecosystem functions.
“I have witnessed how China has progressed in ecological civilization construction,” Nakamura said, noting that the Chinese government has paid more and more attention to biodiversity conservation in recent years.
The idea that “lucid waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets” has taken root in Chinese people’s minds, and their awareness of wildlife protection has been continuously improved, the researcher said.
According to Nakamura, The Chinese government is willing to listen to the advice of scientists and has formulated proper measures to safeguard biodiversity.. Recently, the Chinese government has helped a herd of wild elephants that wandered away from their traditional habitat return home with minimal intervention and avoided severe human-animal conflicts during the process, which he considers a perfect example of China’s scientific biodiversity conservation and management.
Nakamura is full of expectations of the ongoing 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity that kicked off on Monday in Kunming, the capital of Yunnan.
“Biodiversity is essential to human health and well-being. I hope countries can strike the right balance between economic development and biodiversity protection and set practical goals to minimize habitat degradation and biodiversity loss,” he said.
Insects are irreplaceable “ecosystem service providers,” contributing to pollination, nutrient cycling, and pest control, and play an important role in predicting climate change, pointed out Nakamura.
“We need to collect information about insets from all over the world. International cooperation is beneficial to biodiversity conservation,” he said.
China has met some of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets ahead of schedule, reflecting the country’s significant progress in ecological civilization construction, said Nakamura, adding that the country has actively contributed to global biodiversity conservation and is a global leader in protecting biodiversity.