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A Race to Document Rare Plants Before These Cliffs Are Ground to Dust By: Julia Wallace

In the article A Race to Document Rare Plants Before These Cliffs Are Ground to Dust, author Julia Wallace tells us about the great
limestone cliffs and their rare flora being destroyed in Cambodia in order to further their rapidly climbing cement industry.These limestone cliffs,
called karsts, are being quarried for their use in cement production by big companies like K Cement.The caves of the karsts are home to unique
and rare plants and animals that have evolved to better suit the climate of the cliffs and are seen nowhere else.Not only do the plants and animals
call these cliffs their home, the locals believe that they are home to neak tas, landscape spirits that locals have built small altars and temples for.
In Cambodia, karsts are being quarried and used to make cement, which is fueling this countrys building boom.(Wallace) Cambodia is
expected to produce five million tons of cement this year, in spite of the rare and undocumented organisms residing in the karsts.In Southeast Asia,
deforestation provided the world with luxury hardwood, and now the quarried cliffs are providing cement.A man named Dr.Whitten has tried to
see if any environmental assessments were taken and the departments in charge declined to respond.While other countries face the same quarrying
threat, Cambodias government regulation is lax and the state of local scientific knowledge fledgling.(Wallace) In light of these events, many
scientists are going out and collecting samples of rare and never before seen species of organisms before it is too late.
In A Race to Document Rare Plants, Julia Wallace states that the flora ...have scant access to water for six months of the year, creating a
harsh, alkaline environment that has led to the evolution of desertlike flora in the middle of a hot, wet country. Many of these unique organisms
evolved from local, tropical plants but more closely resemble desert cacti.Scientists like Dr.Andrew McDonald, a botany professor at University of
Texas Rio Grande Valley, are going to two karsts in particular and have collected more than 130 rare and unseen plants over the span of four
days.The safety of these cliffs is crucial because after years of ecological damage, the karsts have the ability to replenish what was lost.(Wallace)
Many of these plants should have been documented before, but Cambodia was ravaged by war and then taken over by the Khmer Rouge, who cut
off all higher education and sent the people to the fields as laborers.After the regime of the Khmer Rouge ended, Cambodia is still trying to
recover, but they have almost no botanists and the room where they store hundreds of these unspecified plants is not climate controlled very well
and the specimens are piling up, all due to a lack of funds.
Not only does this cliff destruction harm the plants and animals, it also destroys religious sanctuaries and angers spirits.Many local in
Cambodia believe the cliffs are home to neak tas, or landscape spirits, who are angered by the rocks that are being blasted off the mountain, for
the cement companies.Also the locals are also complaining about the rocks hitting their homes.
A man named Ken Sam An, who lived in Cambodia when the Viet Cong used the cliffs as hideouts and was part of a Khmer Rouge youth
unit himself, is now on a preservation committee for the karsts.The end goal is to make the Cambodian government declare the two karsts the
scientists were exploring, a protected area, meaning no company can lay claim to it.Cambodia had sent the countrys leading herpetologist and the