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The Role of Plant Biotechnology in Assisting Malaysia

Muhammad Syahmi Hishamuddin

Malaysia features one of the world's most diverse tropical rainforest ecosystems. Malaysia is exceptionally rich in forest biodiversity and ecosystems due to the combination of a warm equatorial temperature and a diversity of geographical, edaphic, and climatic factors. Despite the fact that the country has lost some forest due to agricultural development and timber exploitation, the country still has a high proportion of forest cover. Concerns about biodiversity loss necessitated the development of complicated studies and techniques.

The number of various living beings in a certain habitat or on the entire planet is referred to as biodiversity. There are three levels of it: genes, species, and ecosystems. Each component is unique in terms of composition, structure, and function. Biodiversity serves as the foundation for ecosystems and the services they give, on which all people rely. Since the dawn of human civilization, biodiversity has been seen as the foundation of agriculture, the source of all new crops and domestic cattle species. Similarly, the origins of biotechnology can be traced back to the beginning of domestication of wild plants and animals to the present day. Since prehistoric times, genetic modification through traditional methods of plant breeding and selection of superior and new types has been practised. Biotechnology has also been utilised to improve and enhance crop productivity, as well as to protect, analyze, and exploit various aspects of biodiversity.
According to the IUCN Red List and Malaysia nature society (MNS), Malaysia is home to 1,141 critically endangered species, including plants and animals. Malaysia is believed to have 15,000 vascular plant species.

The primary causes of biodiversity loss include:
• modification, fragmentation, or annihilation of habitat
• Intentional or unintentional introduction of foreign species with competitive advantages over native species
• over-collection, over-exploitation, and inappropriate use
• Pollution of the air, soil, and water
• Urbanization
• inappropriate agricultural, farming, and forestry practices
• Climate change, severe droughts, and salinization
• Natural factors (overspecialization, genetic diversity loss, and catastrophic occurrences)
According to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), the global population will reach 9.1 billion by 2050, necessitating a 70% increase in food production. In the current circumstances, executing effective and productive agricultural land uses has produced a global problem of biodiversity conservation. At the same time, FAO advocated that plant genetic biodiversity be preserved because it is critical for future food security. Because crop diversity is decreasing, there is a possible threat to food security in global food supplies. As a result, in 2001, the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture was established to recognize farmers' contributions to crop diversity, establish mechanisms for accessing plant genetic materials, and share the advantages of creating genetic materials (FAO, 2014).

The International Union for Conservation of Nature, stated that one-third of the world's plant species are threatened at some level. The United Nations (UN) declared the current decade (2011-2020) as the "Decade of Biodiversity" and set 2020 as the target for restoring at least 15% of degraded ecosystems and conserving 17 and 10% of terrestrial and inland water and marine and coastal areas, respectively. Concerns about the loss of rich genetic resources prompted the development of numerous new programs for the conservation, protection, and management of natural resources and wildlife. Conservation of biodiversity entails safeguarding valuable natural resources for future generations as well as ensuring the proper functioning of eco-systems. Several conservation strategies have been created during the last few decades, primarily in the ways of in-situ and ex-situ conservation strategy. Biodiversity conservation is primarily based on in-situ conservation, in which habitats, species, and ecosystems are naturally existing and kept in their native state with no alterations. Plant species require genetic variety for long-term survival in their natural ecosystem. The genetic variety can be preserved by introducing new individuals into the population to enhance population size and reduce inbreeding depression, genetic drift, and extinction threat.

Ex-situ conservation, on the other hand, involves the preservation and maintenance of living samples outside their natural habitat using various techniques such as in botanical gardens, gene banks, seed banks, and so on, and is capable of solving some problems associated with in- situ preservation techniques. Different customized strategies have been used to maintain different kinds of plant species by using both in-situ and ex-situ conservation methods, which are complementary to each other. The preservation of uncommon and endangered plant species requires both in-situ and ex-situ genetic diversity maintenance and analysis. Plant tissue culture techniques are widely used to conserve plants, seeds, pollen, vegetative propagules, tissue, or cells. Furthermore, numerous bio-technologies not only provide the possibility of faster multiplication of clones of endangered plant species for genotype conservation, but also conserve genetic material and provide the power of genetic alteration by modifying their expression level. Biotechnological processes are dependable and can deliver consistently safe, higher quality natural products for the food, pharmaceutical, and cosmetic industries. They are also useful in preserving biodiversity in a variety of ways. Several biotechnological approaches, such as distinct molecular marker techniques ranging from biochemical, physiological, and DNA-based markers, are key factors in conserving, analyzing, and detecting genetic diversity of rare and endangered plants

Figure 1: Shows a few primary causes of biodiversity loss. A: annihilation of habitat, B: over-exploitation, C: Pollutions, D: Urbanization.

Biotechnology is described as any approach that uses living organisms or substances to create or modify a product, improve plants or animals, or produce microorganisms for specialised applications. It consists of a spectrum of technologies spanning from classical biotechnology's long-established and commonly used procedures to novel and sophisticated biotechniques of cell and tissue culture methods and transgenic methodology. Plant biotechnology has a well-established positive impact on crop improvement and productivity, and it also has a significant impact on biodiversity conservation. Advances in biotechnology, particularly in vitro culture and molecular biology, particularly transgenic technology, result in the creation of a new category of germplasms, cell lines with unique properties, and genetically modified material. In vitro culture and germplasm collection via rapid, medium, and slow growing multiplication procedures, slow growth storage, and cryopreservation have significant application under reducing the risk of loss of plant genetic resources that are vulnerable in conventional growing and storage settings. The massive loss and degradation of plant genetic resources were partially analysed, conserved, and managed by using advanced ex situ techniques of advanced biotechnological methods, particularly in vitro culture, and numerous molecular biology techniques for genetic diversity investigation and analysis.

To summarise, biodiversity is the very foundation of human survival and economic prosperity. The ever-increasing loss of biodiversity has posed a severe threat to humanity's survival. One-third of all plant species worldwide are threatened for a variety of reasons. Because biodiversity conservation is a global priority, numerous initiatives for studying and protecting plant diversity have been implemented around the world. Ex-situ and in-situ approaches of biodiversity conservation are both critical. The review discusses the use of biotechnologies to improve the ex-situ conservation process in order to preserve biodiversity. It is now widely accepted that an adequate conservation strategy for a certain genotype necessitates a combination of ex-situ and in-situ procedures tailored to the program's needs. Because genetic variability is the primary requirement for the survival of any plant species in its natural habitat, studying genetic diversity in conserved germplasm is critical, and the use of various biotechnological processes is promising. In vitro plant propagation is a useful strategy for preserving genetic variation in all sorts of plants (including rare, threatened, and endangered plants) in a timely and dependable manner by using the same clone or stock of plant material. It is just an efficient alternative plant propagation strategy. It contributes significantly to the natural process of plant conservation in order to repair the declining ecosystem.

Figure 2: Biotechnological approaches. A: Tissue culture technique, B: Molecular marker technique. (Source: Semagn et al 2006, Smith, R. H. 2012)

Tarikh Input: 07/02/2023 | Kemaskini: 07/02/2023 | masridien

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