New approaches to the study of biological diversity

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Transcript New approaches to the study of biological diversity

Zabta K. Shinwari
Quaid-i-Azam University
Scenario of Natural Resource
A large proportion of species in all assessed taxa are
currently threatened with extinction (12% of birds, 23% of
mammals, 32% of amphibians; 31% of gymnosperms;
33% of corals) and the best estimate of population trends
of birds, mammals, amphibians, reptiles and fish indicates
that since 1970 global population sizes have declined by
almost 30%.
 Symbionts of other organisms, extinction of their
hosts can cause their extinction too.
Loh, J. et al. in 2010 and Beyond: Rising to the Biodiversity
Challenge (ed. Loh, J.) (Living Planet Index, WWF, 2008).
Reduced Biodiversity unable to---
If ecosystems with reduced biodiversity are less
able to provide the ecosystem services—such as
carbon sequestration, nutrient cycling and
resistance to drought—on which humans rely.
Ecosystem functions decline as biodiversity is
lost. Reduced disease transmission is an
important ecosystem service provided by high
•(Naeem et al. 2009, Oxford University Press).
Impacts of biodiversity on the emergence
and transmission of infectious diseases
Current unprecedented declines in biodiversity reduce the ability
of ecological communities to provide many fundamental
ecosystem services.
Reduced biodiversity affects the transmission of infectious
diseases of humans, other animals and plants.
Evidence indicates that biodiversity loss frequently increases
disease transmission.
Areas of naturally high biodiversity may serve as a source pool
for new pathogens.
Current evidence indicates that preserving intact ecosystems and
their endemic biodiversity should generally reduce the prevalence
of infectious diseases.
Keesing et al., Nature vol. 468: Dec., 2010
Emerging Disease Events----
Between 1940 and 2004, over 300 emerging disease events were
identified in humans around the world. Concomitantly, other
emerging infectious diseases also appeared in wildlife,
domesticated animals, and crop and wild plants. Emerging
infectious diseases include those in which the pathogen has
evolved into a new strain within the same host species, for
example, through the evolution of drug resistance (methicillinresistant Staphylococcus aureus or MRSA) or switched to new
host species (for example, human immunodeficiency virus or
HIV, severe acute respiratory syndrome or SARS). In some cases,
the switch to new host species is accompanied by a change in
geographic range (for example, West Nile virus in the Americas).
Drivers and locations of emergence events for zoonotic infectious diseases in humans
from 1940–2005. a,Worldwide %age of emergence events caused by each driver; b,
Countries in which the emergence events took place, and the drivers of emergence. The
size of the circle represents the number of emergence events: for scale, the number of
events in the United States was 59. Globally, almost half of these diseases resulted from
changes in land use, changes in agricultural and other food production practices, or
through wildlife hunting, which suggests that contact rates between humans and other
animals are an important underlying cause of zoonotic disease emergence. ‘Other’
includes international travel and commerce, changes in human demographics and
behaviour, changes in the medical industry, climate and weather, breakdown of public
Biodiversity loss may accelerate --
Infectious disease include a host and a pathogen; often
many more species are involved, including additional
hosts, vectors and other organisms with which these
species interact.
West Nile virus is a mosquito-transmitted virus for
which several species of passerine birds act as hosts.
Three recent studies detected strong correlations
between low bird diversity and increased human risk or
incidence of West Nile encephalitis in the United States
Allan, B. F. et al. Ecological correlates of risk and incidence of West
Nile virus in the United States. Oecologia 155, 699–708 (2009).
Links between diseases and the diversity
In human bodies, for example, 90% of all cells are
microbial. A number of studies have begun to show
links between diseases and the diversity of an
organism’s ‘microbiome’. Changes in the composition
of microbiomes are frequently associated with infection
and disease.
A rich microbial community appears to regulate the
abundance of endemic microbial species that can
become pathogenic when overly abundant
Turnbaugh,P. J. et al.Thehumanmicrobiome project.Nature449,804–810(2007).
Biodiversity loss may accelerate --
For hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, a directly
transmitted zoonotic disease, correlational and
experimental studies have shown that a lower diversity
of small mammals increases the prevalence of
hantaviruses in their hosts, thereby increasing risk to
With species losses increasing the transmission of two
fungal rust pathogens that infect perennial rye grass
and other plant species (Source: Roscher et al.
Oecologia 153, 173–183 (2007).
Biodiversity loss – it will make you sick
A new generation of antibiotics, new treatments
for thinning bone disease and kidney failure, and
new cancer treatments may all stand to be lost
unless the world acts to reverse the present
alarming rate of biodiversity loss.
The natural world holds secrets to the
development of new kinds of safer and more
powerful pain-killers; treatments for a leading
cause of blindness – macular degeneration – and
possibly ways of re-growing lost tissues and
organs by, for example, studying amphibians,
salamanders etc.
Amphibian species
Nearly one third of the approximately 6,000 known
amphibian species are threatened with extinction.
Promising Treatment for Peptic Ulcers Lost
(Brooding frog (Rheobatrachus)
Alkaloids made by species like the Ecuadorian
Poison Frog, which could be the source of a new
and novel generation of pain-killers.
Antibacterial compounds produced in the skin of
frogs and toads such as the African Clawed Frog
and South and Central American leaf frogs.
One compound, known as ziconotide, is thought to
be 1000 times more potent than morphine and has
been shown in clinical trials to provide significant
pain relief for advanced cancer and AIDS patients.
Another cone snail compound has been shown in
animal models to protect brain cells from death
during times of inadequate blood flow.
Marine snail
Several medical benefits have already arisen from the
study of bears, including the development of
rsodeoxycholic acid, found in the gall bladders of
some bear species such as polar and black bears, into
a medicine.
The substance is used to prevent the build up of bile
during pregnancy; dissolve certain kinds of
gallstones; and prolong the life of patients with a
specific kind of liver disease, known as primary
biliary cirrhosis, giving them more time to find a liver
‘Sustaining Life: How Human Health Depends on Biodiversity’
Oxford University Press, April 2008
Pakistan: Geographical Dispersion of Districts
Forest-based communities
Forest communities involved in relatively new initiatives in local
forest management
Over-arching goals such as enrichment of forests, poverty
reduction and sustainable livelihoods.
However, in Pakistan - forest –based communities getting
marginalized in mainstream development with limited options
exposed to the worst (Extremism vs State actions)
Socio-economic context:
Widespread poverty
Substantial reliance on remittances from migrant household
Strong dependence on natural resources e.g. fuelwood, wild
foods, medicinal plants, thatching grass, construction
timber etc.
Wild plant products formed an important part of
goals cannot
be divorced
from economic
Biodiversity encompasses the diversity of genes, species and ecosystems.
Link of reduce Biodiversity with
invasiveness of species
Plants with weedy traits become more abundant
when plant diversity declines. Consequently, the
very species that have traits permitting
persistence in degraded and species-poor
ecosystems are also more likely to carry high
pathogen and vector burdens.
Pilgrim, et al., Biol. Conserv. 120, 161–170 (2004).
Sustainability – an ethical concept
are trustees, or stewards, of the planet's vast resources and biological
•We must learn to make use of the earth's natural resources, both renewable and
non-renewable, in a manner that ensures sustainability and equity into the distant
reaches of time.
•This requires full consideration of the potential environmental consequences of
all development activities
•We must temper our actions with moderation and humility
•The true value of nature cannot be expressed in economic terms
•This requires a deep understanding of the natural world and its role in
humanity's collective development both material and spiritual
•Sustainable environmental management is not a discretionary commitment we
can weigh against other competing interests
•It is a fundamental responsibility that must be shouldered, a pre-requisite for
spiritual development as well as our physical survival.
(based on Bahá'í International Community, Valuing Spirituality in Development. A concept paper written for the World Faiths and Development Dialogue, Lambeth Palace,
London, 18-19 February 1998)
It is unjust to sacrifice the well-being of the
generality of humankind -- and even of the planet
itself -- to the advantages which technological
breakthroughs can make available to privileged
Only development programmes that are perceived
as meeting their needs and as being just and
equitable in objective can hope to engage the
commitment of the masses of humanity, upon
whom implementation depends.
(adapted from Baha'i International Community, Prosperity of Humankind)
The poor are most vulnerable to climate change
and least able to protect themselves.
We should consider every human being as a trust
of the whole.
The goal of wealth creation should be to make
everyone wealthy.
Voluntary giving is more meaningful and
Moderation in Material Civilization
The civilization, so often vaunted by the
learned exponents of arts and sciences, will,
if allowed to overleap the bounds of
moderation, bring great evil upon men....
The day is approaching when its flame will
devour the cities...
Bahá'u'lláh (1817-1892)
Global warming is a perfect illustration of this
Contentment – moderate lifestyles
All faiths have taught the spiritual value of a
simple life and detachment from material things: content with little, and be freed from all
inordinate desire.
What does this imply for the consumer society and its
energy consumption?
24.1 Human population growth
Human population growth
Note correlations in the data.
The Ozone Hole
Global Warming
Climate change will bring
great environmental
(Aral Sea, from UNEP, GEO 3)
Food insecurity
Water shortages
Terrorism, refugees
Natural, economic and social
Loss of biodiversity
Human Impacts of Climate
An increase in extreme weather events: floods,
droughts, cyclones
 Less winter snowfall, melting glaciers, water
 Changing conditions for agriculture and
forestry, shifting fish stocks
 Sea level rise, flooding low-lying areas and
 Millions of environmental refugees
 High costs of mitigation and adaptation
 Greatest impact on the poor
Global warming is driven by our
addiction to cheap energy
Our industrial economy was built on cheap energy,
mostly from fossil fuels
Transportation, communications, trade, agriculture,
heating/cooling, consumer lifestyle all depend on
Energy demand is rising rapidly and the supply is
Global warming is just one more reason to address
the energy challenge urgently
Adaptation will be extremely expensive
Controlling greenhouse gases?
UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (Rio,
1992) call for controls
Kyoto Protocol on reduction of greenhouse gases –
return emissions to 1990 levels by 2012
CO2 emissions rose 4.5% in 2004 to 27.5 b tonnes, 26%
higher than 1990
China and India have doubled CO2 production since
1990, US +20%, Australia +40%
US released 5.8, China 4.5, Europe 3.3, India 1.1 billion
tonnes of CO2 in 2004
Fossil energy use is still growing
World oil use is growing 1.1%/year, Latin America
2.8%, India 5.4%, China 7.5%
From 2001-2020, world oil consumption will rise
56%, with OPEC production doubling, but nonOPEC production has already peaked
Oil provides 40% of world's primary energy
Two thirds of future energy demand will come from
developing countries where 1.6 billion people have no
Energy demand and global warming are on a collision
Religion and the challenges of today
- Progressive globalizing of human experience
- Loss of faith in the certainties of materialism as its
negative impacts become apparent
- Lack of faith in traditional religion and failure to find
guidance there for living with modernity
- Still longing to understand the purpose of existence
- Now there is a sudden resurgence of religion, based on
a groundswell of anxiety and discontent with spiritual
- Desperate people without hope are easily attracted to
radical, intolerant, fanatical movements.
- The world is in the grip of a war of civilizations based
on irreconcilable religious antipathies
- This situation paralyses our ability to address global
challenges such as climate change
We can choose
Business as usual in a materialistic
society ignoring the future
Retreating to a fortress world of
old values
Making a transition to
sustainability with science and
religion in harmony
24.1 Human population growth
Age structure in MDCs and LDCs
24.4 Working toward a sustainable society
Our unsustainable society
Population growth in the LDCs is at a high rate
Consumption in the MDCs is at a high rate
Agriculture uses a lot of the land, water and fossil fuels and
produces pollution
Almost ½ of the agricultural yield feeds our farm animals
It takes about 10 lbs of grain to produce about 1 lb of meat
therefore the overeating of meat in the MDCs is wasteful
Currently we mostly use nonrenewable forms of energy
leading to acid deposition, global warming and smog
As the human population grows we encroach on other
species that results in habitat loss and species extinction
The health and demographic impact of biomass fuel use: A cross
country comparison
Indoor air pollution
and rural like
Dependence on biomass
exacts a heavy price on
quality of life and health,
especially among rural
population, women and
Indoor air pollution from household fuels in Pakistan
Household energy use by type of fuel in Pakistan
Indoor smoke 4th in global ranking factors for
burden of disease in developing countries
disability-adjusted life
years (DALYs)
Where we are?
Countries who learnt lesson from 9173-4 oil embargo:
Japan drive towards energy efficiency
France nuclear energy (78% of electricity needs & waste is
Brazil ethanol from sugar cane, today between domestic oil
production & Ethanol industry it does need to import crude
Denmark political will (CO2 tax)
1980s economy grew 70%, energy consumption same
16% energy from solar & wind power
Two of world most innovative manufacturer of enzymes converting
biomass to fuel are in Denmark
73 they got 99% energy from middle East, today is zero
Green house gases
Fuel from Heaven (come from above ground)
Wind, hydroelectric, tidal, biomass, solar (renewable,
produce no harmfull emissions)
Fuel from hell (come from undergorund)
Coal, oil, gas (emit CO2 & other pollutants.
Green house gases
Other green house gases (e.g Methan CH4) from rice farming,
petroleum drilling, coal mining, animal defecation, solid waste
landfill sites, cattle belching.
CH4 heat trapping power in atmosphere is 21 times stronger
than CO2
1.3b cows belching in the world
When cow chew their cud, they re-gurgitate some food to
rechew it (gas comes out)
Avg cow expels 600L CH4 daily
Trap the sun’s heat near the earth surface before the heat radiates
back into space.
Composition of earth’s atmosphere has been relatively
unchanged for 25m years.
6.7 b
(9.2 b in 2050)
Less dev. 5.4
(7.9 b in 2050)
1.2 b extremely poor (less than 1$ a day); half live in
India-Pak (Pak 50 m).
1800 London was world’s largest city (1m)
1960 (111 cities with pop. More than 1m)
1995 (280 cities with 1m & more)
2007 (310)
Ten million or more (1975-5; 1995-14 & 2015-26)
Population & Governance
Countries where population grow rapidly,
governance is difficult (Afghan; Niger;
Congo; Pak).
 Population is expected to triple by mid
 Large pop. Results in lack of basic
freedom, basic needs, food, housings, edn,
employment; so they are attracted to
violence, civil unrest & extremisms.
Green house gases
CO2 Industrial, residential & transportation
Go to earth’s atmosphere which is like a blanket,
regulate planet’s temperature
 CO2 build up thickens the blanket, making globe
 Deforestation in places like Indonesia & Brazil is
responsible for more CO2 than all the world’s car,
trucks, plans, ships and trains combined (20% of all
global emissions)
We are running an uncontrolled experiment
on the only home we have.
 We can no longer expect to enjoy peace &
security, economic growth, & human rights,
if we continue to ignore key problems of
energy-climate Era:
 Energy
supply & demand, climate change,
energy-poverty & biodiversity loss
Friedman, 2008
Edible Wild Plants In
Use of wild food resources by rural households in
Limpopo Province, South Africa (Hansen 1998):
 Wild herbs and vegetables – 92%
 Wild fruit – 81%
 Insects – 77%
 Bushmeat – 32%
Cultivated food crops (Giannecchini 2000);
 Homestead garden plots – 98%
 Large fields outside of village – 89%
Animal ownership (Twine et al. 2003)
 Cattle – 34%
 Goats – 56%
Wild Mushrooms and
Wild Vegetable Products
Wild Vegetable
China Exports
Sun Zhigang, General Manager
2002 2003 2004 2005
World Demand
In thousand tons
Sales Successes
500 Tons per year
400 Tons per year
Domestic China
3,000 Tons per year
Company’s Financing: $2.5 million
$100M sales in 2007
Partners with supermarket chains (Wal-mart, Huilian)
Impediments to The Biodiversity
Conservation in Pakistan
• Lack of funding
• Funding is insufficient
• Not enough taxonomists, field botanists
• Taxonomy is too difficult to learn and to practice
•Requires years to accumulate literature, specimens etc.
• Critical resources are scattered and available to only a few
•Herbarium specimens
• There are few centralized sources of information
• Lack of Sharing information
• Not enough trained HR to domesticate wild plants
• Not enough use of modern knowledge in Botanical Research
Existing bureaucratic/political procedures
Top-down communication channels
Absence of a pro-poor stance amongst the officials
Only political will can make it happen
‘Top-down’ system - still the main vehicle of governance.
Common Lessons Learnt:
Strategic forest management – Institutional forestry rules changed for involving local
communities in decision-making/action
Bettering access of the poor to NTFPs – Poor worse off in absence of forests -crucial
to increase their access to such resources
Monitoring food-livelihood security – food-livelihood security implies good forestry
Building social capital –nurturing local social bonding
Respecting indigenous knowledge – Knowledge/Experience of local communities
needs to be respected and integrated into local level decision-making
Revolution is not a dinner party, not an essay,
nor a painting, nor a piece of emroidery; it
cannot be advanced softly, gradually, carefully,
considerately, respectfully, politely, plainly and
--Mao Tse-tung
 "The
sun, the moon, and the stars,
would all have disappeared a long
time ago...if they had happened to
have been within the reach of
the predatory human hands".
(Havelock Ellis, "The Dance of
Life", 1923)
Taraxacum officinale
Parts used: roots, leaves, flowers,
and crowns.
No poisonous look-alikes
Leaves can be eaten raw in salads,
steamed, or sauteed. Flowers can
be made into wine or dipped in
batter and deep-fried like fritters.
Roots can be made into a coffee
Most older leaves can be made
milder-tasting if covered with a
bucket or other container for a few
days up to a week
Has more beta carotene
than carrots, more iron
than spinach. Also has
vitamins B-1, B-2, B-5,
B-6, B-12, C, E, P, and
D, biotin, inositol,
potassium, phosphorus,
magnesium, and zinc
Nasturtium officinale
One of the oldest-known
leaf vegetables eaten by
human beings
Member of the cabbage
family, related to Mustard
contains significant amounts
of iron, calcium and folic
acid, in addition to vitamins
A and C.
Plantago major
Broad leafed plantain, also a
narrow- leafed species
Young leaves are edible but
not very tasty
More useful in medicine and
first aid; has been used to
stop bleeding, and to treat
burns, skin irritations, bee
stings and mosquito bites.
Shepherd’s Purse
Capsella bursa-pastoris
Relative of mustard, very
mild-tasting green. Can be
eaten raw in salads, steamed,
sauteed, or cooked in soups
and stews.
provides vitamin C and K,
some protein, sulfur, calcium,
iron, and sodium.
Used in Medicine to stop
bleeding and as an astringent
Seed pods are also edible
Asclepias syriaca
young shoots, young leaves,
flower buds and fresh fruits
are all edible
primary source of food for
the caterpillars of the
monarch butterfly
mature stems, leaves and pod
bark contain compounds that
are toxic in large qualities and
have been known to poison
sheep, cattle, and other
Typha latifolia
One of the most important
and common wild foods
The shoots, flower stalks,
rhizomes and pollen are all
Wild Ginger
Asarum species
root can be used in place
of `regular' ginger in
despite the name and
similar flavor, it isn't
related to Asian ginger
Hemerocallis fulva
Introduced species, escaped into wild.
Shoots, buds, flowers and tubers all edible
Use the shoots raw in salads, or sauté,
steam, stir-fry, deep-fry, bake, simmer in
soups, or pickle.
Cook the unopened buds like green beans.
Use the flowers raw in salads, in soups,
or deep-fried.
If you dig up a lily and it *doesn’t* have
tubers…DON’T eat it, it’s poisonous!
Sagittaria latifolia
Also known as wapato, duck
potato, and indian potato
The buds and fruits of this plant
in late summer are edible, but
plant is mostly prized for its
tubers, which were traditionally
gathered by wading into ponds
and dislodging them with one’s
feet so they’d float to the surface
of the water.
Can be eaten raw but best when
cooked, like the name suggests,
tastes almost identical to a
potato, but with a slightly nutty
Wild Carrot
Daucus carota
Ancestor of cultivated carrots
Also called Queen Anne’s Lace
Root is edible when young, then
becomes tough
Crushed seeds have been used since
ancient Greece as a
contraceptive/abortive, and recent
studies have proven this effect
Jerusalem Artichoke
Helianthus tuberosus
Member of the
Sunflower family
Also called the Sunchoke
Cultivated in some
gardens and found wild
Produces inulin instead
of starch
Amanita Mushrooms
Account for 90% of
mushroom fatalities
With very few exceptions,
amanitas grow on the ground
near trees
Very young amanitas, called
buttons, resemble puffballs,
but when you cut puffballs
open, they're undifferentiated
inside. An amanita button
has a cap, stem, and gills
unless you’re 110% sure you have right species, don’t risk it!
Amanitas continued…
Unfortunately even the most deadly
Amanitas supposedly taste wonderful,
and symptoms don’t appear until 8-12
hours after ingestion, when it’s too late.
amanita toxins prevent cells from
making new proteins, which kills
them…if untreated death comes after
days of suffering from liver and/or
kidney failure
Doctors can shunt the blood through
filters to remove the toxins. They use
dialysis to replace the kidneys, and give
the patient a liver transplant.
Sometimes the patient can be saved
Fly Agaric
Amanita muscaria
poisonous, but not deadly
Various peoples have used mushroom in
shamanic rituals
Aspects of Santa Claus were inspired by this
mushroom. His red coat and white buttons
symbolize the red mushroom with its white
patches. Santa flies because the mushroom
sometimes creates the hallucination of
flight. He uses reindeer because they're fond
of the mushroom, and herders who eat
reindeer that have eaten the mushroom get
high too.
The Koryak shaman would bring prepared
fly agarics to ceremonies in a sack, like
Santa's bag of toys, and enter the yurt
(portable circular domed dwelling) through
the smoke hole (like a chimney).
Santa lives at the North Pole because for
most Europeans, Siberia might as well be
the North Pole. And in Europe today,
Christmas cards still often depict the fly
Cantharellus cibarius
Found in summer and fall on
the ground in Oak, Conifer
and Beech forests
Often sent to France to be
canned, and are then
imported back into the US as
over-priced `French Gourmet
Fried Chicken Mushroom
Lyophyllum decastes
very prolific in fall and
found in grassy areas and
on disturbed soil
best used in soups, stews,
and sauces.
Not so good fried
because of chewy texture
Honey Mushroom
Armillaria mellea
comes in two main varieties:
brown and yellow
found in fall at the foot of
living or dead trees or
stumps, especially Oaks
Like previous, best used in
soups, sauces and stews, but
good fried too
Morchella species
Considered a choice edible
Cut in half; should be hollow
from top to bottom, with no
division between the cap and
Found in old orchards, near
dead trees, in soils with
limestone in it
Are particularly prone to
appear after forest fires…
So much in fact that in the
19th century the Russian
government passed a law
making it illegal to burn
down forest areas, which
people were doing to harvest
the morels that would pop up
the following year.
Hen of the Woods
Grifola frondosa
Grows in almost all the USA, in
the fall at the bases of deciduous
trees; living or dead
Ranges in size from 3 to up to 50
Sold as Maitake mushrooms in
specialty foods and health stores
Calvatia gigantean
Cut open before eating to
distinguish puffballs from inedible
(but not deadly) earthstars, and
deadly amanita in their button
When cut open a puffball will be
solid white throughout with a
texture like cream cheese. A
button Amanita will have a stem
Oyster Mushrooms
Pleurotus ostreatus
Choice mushroom
Looks, smells and tastes
like what it’s named after
Used in recipes as a
Vegan substitute for
Can be found all year
Gaultheria procumbens
Most `wintergreen’ flavorings
used today come from the
sap from Sweet Birch trees
The leaves are made into tea,
and the berries (perfectly
edible) can be made into pies,
jellies and tarts
Food from Leaves and Young Shoots
Rumex spp. - The bitter succulent leaves were roasted . (Young leaves of some species are
more edible, and even used to be cultivated as a vegetable in Europe. A native African dock,
'Abyssinian spinach', R. abyssinicus has been domesticated.)
Zygadenus venenosus. Don't eat what you don't 'know' is safe!). Murderous tribal wars were
fought over this resource.
Sedge, ? Scirpus sp. - grows in damp and marshy places by lakes. The young shoots are
Phragmites communis, a plant of damp places and lake shores
Mint, Mentha sp.
Wild parsnip, ?Phellopterus montanus, Amaranthus spp. - the young leaves are very mild.
Lamb's quarter, Chenopodium album - An introduced annual. The leaves are quite
Mustard, Brassica campestris - the lower leaves, or very young plants, which are least hot,
are eaten.
Wild lettuce, Mimulus guttatus - a low growing plant found on wet ground, the leaves are
like a somewhat bitter watercress.
Peppergrass, Lepidium freemontii - A small land cress with 'hot' tasting leaves
Wood sorrel, Usually, Oxalis sp. ? Oxalis tuberosa, or O. enneaphylla. (Oxalis species
leaves and bulbs were once commonly eaten wherever in the world they were found - Africa
has around 130 indigenous species - in spite of their oxalic acid content.)
Solomon's seal, ?Polygonatum giganteum - the very young shoots of the related
European P. officinale were used like asparagus; perhaps the Paiute used P. gigantuem the
same way. (The rhizomatous roots of P. giganteum are also starchy, and were used by the
Ainu people of Northern Japan as a food source. P. giganteum grows in both Asia and
Purslane, Probably Portulacca oleracea, a sour tasting introduced annual weed with
succulent crisp textured leaves; possibly Portulacca retusa, known to be used by tribes in the
Southwest as a vegetable, or Calandrinia sp. - adapted to dry western parts of USA. Or
maybe even Lewisia rediviva, a purslane more commonly known as 'bitter root', altho' it is
usually harvested for its very nourishing flour (in spite of its common name!), rather than
as a vegetable.
Bracken fern, Pteridium aquilinum - the very young shoots ('fiddle heads') are eaten raw
or cooked, when they taste like somewhat bitter asparagus.
Sow thistle, Sonchus sp. - very young leaves are edible.
Chickweek, Stellaria media - a common small annual plant with vaguely cabbage tasting
nettle, ?Urtica sp. - in other countries, fresh nettle tops are regarded as a very nutritious
spring 'spinach', usually used in soup.
Wild violet. Viola sp., possibly V. palmata, or V. papailionacea - While viola flowers,
at least, have been used in food in Medieval time, the roots are poisonous - except the
mucilaginous roots of V. palmata. The basal leaves of
V. papailionacea are still collected for greens today. They are quite extraordinarily rich in
vitamin A.
Food from Roots and Tubers
Wild onion, ?Allium validum - 'swamp onion'. - there are many species of wild onion,
most have small bulbs, and are found in a variety of habitats, depending on the species.
Mariposa lily, Calochortus sp. - 'Indian potato'.- a wide ranging genus with corms that
can be eaten raw or cooked. They can also be dried and pounded into flour.
Camas, Camassia sp. - a bulbous plant of damp places, marshes and lake edges. The
bulbs were baked, or cooked and dried and the flour extracted.
Brodiaea, a pretty flowering 'bulb', most species of which are edible. They produce their
edible corms in a wide range of habitats, according to the species.
Primrose, ?Primula sp. In Europe the leaves and flowers of 'cowslip', P. veris, have a
history of use as salad greens.
Water parsley, Oenanthe sarmentosa - the black tubers are said to have a 'cream-like
taste'. The leaves and stems are also edible, tasting a bit like celery. Some similar looking
species are poisonous.
Balsam root (Oregon Sunflower), ? possibly a species of sunflower, Helianthus.
Many sunflower species have edible roots.
Wocus (water lily) N. advena - the roots are starchy, and can be baked, grilled, pounded
for flour, or stored whole for winter use
Top 10 leading risk factors
2.7 million
deaths per year
Blood pressure
Unsafe sex
Low fruit and vegetable intake
High Body Mass Index
Physical inactivity
Unsafe water and hygiene
Millions of deaths per year