F. Conservation

Botanic and similar, gardens containing well-documented and scientifically arranged collections of plants are well placed to make significant contributions to conservation. Ex situ collections can be useful in conservation, especially if their use is well integrated with other methods, such as in situ conservation, research on breeding systems, reintroduction programmes or education projects. Botanic gardens have a unique mix of staff – people who can research, grow and explain plants. This staff resource, held in conjunction with plant collections, can contribute significantly to plant conservation. To be of maximum use, the collections need to be well documented and from multiple, known, wild-origin sources, in addition it is important that information on these collections is widely available (see BGCI Plant Search below). Conservation collections are of limited use if nobody except for a visitor knows you are cultivating a plant. Frequently, gardens, with their collections, offer superb opportunities for conservation and environmental education, not only about plant conservation, but also on all aspects of the environment.

Conservation projects are usually best undertaken in conjunction with other specialist organisations and institutions; for example universities, government agencies or gene banks and organisations such as Planta Europa, Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI), the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and Fauna & Flora International (FFI). The countries of origin in which the plants are found must also be informed at the very least, but meaningful collaboration should be the norm.

There are numerous initiatives and international agreements relevant for plant conservation in plant collections. These are often agreements about modes of operation or action plans, rather than recipes for direct plant conservation action. The role of PlantNetwork is to co-ordinate and promote practical conservation initiatives within Britain and Ireland, and to suggest conservation methods that can be adopted by collection holders. We need to develop processes whereby the numerous action plans and agreements can be transformed into direct conservation action.

An understanding and summary of these numerous intitiatives is now badly needed. The sheer number and confusion of these many documents is now a serious impediment to their understanding and adoption. Many collection holders are probably bamboozled by the sheer volume of resolutions and action points. PlantNetwork plans to document and summarise all relevant bits of national and international conservation legislation (see Policy M), agreements and action plans. These policies, agreements and action plans could be usefully presented in a summarised form that can be understood by all gardens staff; this would greatly help collection holders in putting actions into place.

PlantNetwork has held a number of conferences that have discussed the conservation of plant genetic resources. In 2003 it undertook a survey to investigate the ex situ holdings of British plants in plant collections in the UK. This survey work has led on to an ambitious project – the Target 8 project – to fulfil the UK’s commitments to the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation. This project allows member gardens to become involved in direct conservation action.

The PlantNetwork policy for conservation makes specific recommendations on general conservation, and outlines the PlantNetwork Target 8 Project, and the UK Biodiversity Action Plan. In Policy M, further issues on conservation are covered as part of the International Dimension of our work with the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD); the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (GSPC), and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

Environmental issues are included in a separate policy, G.

General plant conservation

PlantNetwork aims to encourage the use of plant collections to support and contribute to plant conservation.

PlantNetwork has:

  • held a number of conferences addressing the issue of Conservation, including Botanical Collections as Genetic Resources, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, May 2000
  • held a conference on Plant Collections in the Twenty-First Century: CBD, CITES and Agenda 21, at Ness Botanic Gardens in Oct 1998
  • held a Records Group meeting on Plant Records for Conservation at Birmingham Botanical Gardens & Glasshouses, in March 2004
  • held a Tree Forum meeting on Conservation of Wilson’s Legacy at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in June 2005

To maintain these achievements, PlantNetwork will:

  • assist members in their understanding of the many instruments and action plans dealing with conservation by summarising their details on the website.
  • encourage all members to undertake direct conservation actions at their institution. These might be broadly based recycling and sustainable resource utilisation activities, or they might be direct actions to protect locally, nationally or internationally threatened species.
  • collate the information gathered above, as a reference guide and framework to suggest the sort of activities in which all collection holders, large and small, might participate.
  • encourage members to maintain ex situ living collections, and their associated records, to the highest possible standards (e.g. multiple source, wild origin and well documented) to ensure that they meet the needs of conservation projects
  • encourage members to submit their plant collections to the BGCI Plant Search database. This provides the benefit of allowing a garden to instantly determine the IUCN category status of their plant collections
  • encourage members to establish integrated plant conservation techniques wherever possible, in particular by liasing with in situ conservation projects, and offering the use of their facilities
  • highlight model projects in the PlantNetwork Newsletter
  • ensure that any PlantNetwork conference or meeting considers the conservation implications of the topic selected for discussion
  • encourage members to ensure that conservation projects have a sound scientific basis
  • encourage member gardens to take part in, and organise events to mark World Conservation Day
  • develop close links with conservation-based organisations such as BGCI, FFI, WWF, National Council for the Conservation of Plants and Gardens, local wildlife trusts, specialist plant societies such as the Bryological Society and Pteridological Society and others.

The PlantNetwork response to Target 8 of the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation

The Global Strategy for Plant Conservation aims to halt the current and continuing loss of plant biodiversity, by 2010. Target 8 of this programme aims to ‘secure 60 per cent of threatened plant species in accessible ex situ collections, preferably in the country of origin, and 10 per cent of them included in recovery and restoration programmes’.

At a meeting of PlantNetwork: the Plant Collections Network of Britain & Ireland, on 6–7th April 2005 at the National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin, eight sub-targets were elaborated for botanical collections in Ireland and Britain to develop a co-ordinated response to support efforts to meet the 2010 target.

In particular the role of ex situ collections in serving the broader remit of plant conservation through public awareness, building and sharing cultivation expertise, collaborating with in situ conservation programs, and in lobbying at governmental level were all seen as vital elements that plant collections and their staff can bring to conservation work in these islands. The meeting included representatives of 53 institutions in Britain and Ireland.

The following aims were adopted by the PlantNetwork Conference:


  • Ensure that no threatened species of native plant in Britain or Ireland becomes extinct, and support efforts to safeguard all threatened species in the wild in Britain and Ireland [c.400 taxa].
  • Bring together ex situ and in situ conservation efforts, by developing horticultural expertise for ex situ conservation to support in situ recovery programmes.
  • Assess which threatened species are already in cultivation in botanic gardens in Britain and Ireland.
  • Increase the number of threatened species in cultivation and the number of botanic gardens growing endangered plants for the purposes of
    • assisting current and future conservation projects
    • developing horticultural knowledge of threatened plants and
    • raising public awareness of the importance of plants and their conservation.
  • Develop, collate and widely disseminate scientific and horticultural protocols for the ex situ cultivation of threatened plants in Britain and Ireland.
  • Raise political and public awareness of the issues surrounding native flora and practical approaches to its conservation.


The objectives of these sub-targets are:

  • To identify and agree priority tasks for botanic gardens in Britain and Ireland in relation to the achievement of Target 8 of the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation
  • To ensure that horticultural expertise and facilities are available in PlantNetwork member institutions to support a coordinated programme in the conservation of threatened plants
  • To support the development and maintenance of partnerships with those working on in situ plant conservation to maintain and protect threatened plants and their habitats.

The PlantNetwork Target 8 Project

PREAMBLEPlantNetwork, Recognising the importance and value of the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation, adopted by the UN Convention on Biological Diversity in April 2002, in particular the goals of Target 8 included in the Strategy, PlantNetwork has worked with its members to established a set of subtargets for botanical collections in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales to support the achievement of Target 8 in these islands;

Recognising that many threatened taxa will only be conserved successfully if a range of conservation, management and recovery approaches is applied, using a combination of in situ and ex situ techniques, the eventual aim being to ensure that there are secure wild populations of such species in situ, preferably in their original, native habitats and sites;

Noting that a range of existing national plans and other instruments and initiatives has been developed in the UK and the Republic of Ireland (such as national biodiversity strategies and action plans and national plant ‘Red Data’ lists) which provide useful reference points to highlight priority actions and approaches;

Pointing out that collection holders need to make themselves familiar with work already being undertaken on a particular species, as well as the relevant legalities and national authorities responsible (i.e. English Nature; Scottish Natural Heritage, Countryside Commission of Wales, Department of Environment & Local Government) before initiating any work on native plant conservation;

Understanding that collection holders should take every opportunity to raise political and public awareness of endangered plants through the development of displays and by undertaking other educational initiatives in their gardens to illustrate the threats facing plant species and the role that all citizens can play in plant conservation, including changing attitudes and influencing public opinion and political action;

Appreciating the need to exchange, disseminate widely and maintain up-to-date information on all threatened native plant taxa, PlantNetwork intends to develop a clearing-house mechanism for documents and other information sources pertinent to this work.

Adopts the following eight sub-targets to be achieved by 2010:

Sub-target 1: 100% of critically endangered vascular plant species in managed ex situ collections
1a: PlantNetwork Gardens involved in every appropriate national, regional or local Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) or Irish Priority Species conservation programme.
1b: Species in the Extinct in the Wild (EW) category secured in no fewer than two living collections.
1c: Species in the Endangered (E) category, with high rates of decline, secured in no fewer than two living collections.

Sub-target 2: Genetically representative conservation collections established for all vascular plant species with small, limited or rapidly declining extant populations

Sub-target 3: Cultivation and propagation protocols available for all threatened plant species
3a: On-line database of cultivation and propagation protocols launched by end of 2006.
3b: Duplication of effort minimised through the collation and dissemination of available datasets.

Sub-target 4: Participate in species recovery or management programmes with partners
4a: 100% of UKBAP & Irish Priority Species included in recovery programmes.

Sub-target 5: Develop complementary collections of threatened bryophytes in cultivation
5a: A PlantNetwork Conference organised with the British Bryological Society (BBS) on how horticulture and botanical collections can contribute to bryophyte conservation.

Sub-target 6: Public and political awareness raised of native flora and the need for its conservation.
6a: 25% of PlantNetwork gardens working with appropriate partners or community groups to develop public-awareness programmes for plant conservation.
6b: Positive stories on plant conservation promoted in the media, with articles in all major horticultural-news journals by 2007.
6c: A 20% increase in public understanding of need for conservation of native plants needs achieved.
6d: Coherent shared themes for plant conservation developed and implemented throughout PlantNetwork gardens, including the production of framework documents to assist with individual education projects.
6e: 50% of PlantNetwork member institutions participating in International Biodiversity Day (22 May) every year.

Sub-target 7: Build the capacity required in PlantNetwork member institutions to achieve the PlantNetwork targets for Target 8 of the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation.
7a: Side-by-side living collections of critical native species developed in PlantNetwork member institutions, with at least one such collection in each region (England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland).
7b: Expertise in native plant taxonomy available and accessible in 50% of PlantNetwork member institutions.

Sub-target 8: Best practice achieved in the implementation of actions needed to meet the targets of the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation.
8a: Website established to disseminate protocols and best-practice information, and to highlight gaps, as a clearing-house mechanism.
8b: Available guidelines for the collection, acquisition and maintenance of genetic diversity of ex situ material applied and, where necessary, developed, for the management of collections.
8c: PlantNetwork member institutions to have accessible, effective and comprehensive documentation systems for their native plant collections.

UK Biodiversity Action Plan

Biodiversity: the UK Action Plan (1994) was written as a direct response to Article 6 of the CBD. Its main recommendation is to produce detailed action plans for Britain’s most rare, threatened and endangered species, and these were produced in a series of volumes from 1995 to 1999. Action plans have also been produced for threatened habitats. In more recent years, local biodiversity action plans have been produced for many regions in Britain. Now that the action plans have been written, they need to be acted upon and botanic gardens are in a good position to help with implementation.

PlantNetwork will encourage its members to:

  • find out about the UK Biodiversity Action Plan and inform their staff
  • take part in Species and Habitat Action Plans, where appropriate
  • become involved in their local Biodiversity Action Plan.
  • participate in the PlantNetwork target 8 project
  • use their plant collections and gardens to promote the value of their local and UK Action plan by working with others active in this field and providing a platform

The following policies are also relevant in delivering the Conservation policy: