M: International Commitments


Today there are well over two hundred multi-lateral environmental agreements, the majority of which Ireland and the UK have signed up to. Many of these are significant to horticultural practice and plant collections. The problem faced by Gardens is in understanding what their responsibilities, and legal obligations are. Some of these agreements have been ratified (i.e. are now part of national law) by the UK and Irish governments, e.g. the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the Convention on International Trade in endangered species of wild fauna and flora (CITES). Other agreements are more specific to botanical collections, including the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (GSPC, which is part of the CBD), the Action Plan for Botanic Gardens in the EU (2000), the International Agenda for Botanic Gardens (2000), and the 2010 targets for Botanic Gardens (2004). Plant collections of a less botanical nature can also contribute towards achieving the goals of these activities, nearly all of which are concerned with ensuring that plant collections and horticultural practice are supportive of, and not negatively impacting upon, the conservation of the very plants we grow.

There is, for example, a common perception among a large sector of the horticultural industry that the CBD is a nuisance that is destructive of the horticultural world we knew pre-1992, and needs to be ignored or circumvented. Rather it should be viewed as a wake up call to what is needed to protect the very things we care about.

PlantNetwork aims to promote an understanding of general International agreements and exchange of information and expertise.

PlantNetwork has:

  • held a conference on Plant Collections in the Twenty-First Century: CBD, CITES and Agenda 21, at Ness Botanic Gardens in Oct 1998

To maintain these achievements, PlantNetwork will:

  • develop a web-based resource providing summary details and explanations for all relevant commitments and agreements that plant collections in Ireland and the UK may wish to learn more about
  • promote those agreements which the board feels are important to the long term security and responsibility of plant collections in these islands, and direct members to best practice

Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)

Plant collections are internationally recognised as potentially important in the implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity. They are valuable for public education, research, conservation and many other uses. The Convention also confers new responsibilities on collection holders, to ensure that any benefits derived from the use of plants obtained since the Convention came into force in 1992 are shared with the countries of origin of that plant material. The Global Strategy for Plant Conservation has been developed under the CBD to provide outcome-oriented targets, which PlantNetwork will work to achieve (see below).

WHAT IS THE CBD

At the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, world leaders agreed on a comprehensive strategy for sustainable development – meeting our needs while ensuring that we leave a healthy and viable world for future generations. One of the key agreements adopted at Rio was the Convention on Biological Diversity. This pact among the vast majority of the world’s governments sets out commitments for maintaining the world’s ecological underpinnings as we go about the business of economic development. The UK, and Ireland are both parties to the Convention, and it is now part of each countries domestic law. The Convention establishes three main goals:

  • The conservation of the world’s biological diversity
  • The sustainable use of its components
  • The fair and equitable sharing of the benefits from the use of these genetic resources.

The third objective of the CBD, which is also called Article 15, states

  • Genetic resources rest with national governments and are subject to national legislation
  • Access shall be on mutually agreed terms and subject to prior informed consent
  • Sharing in a fair and equitable way the results of research and development and the benefits arising from the commercial and other utilization of genetic resources with the Contracting Party providing such resources. Such sharing shall be upon mutually agreed terms

The aim is to ensure that trade and commercial use of genetic resources (i.e. living things) benefits the country(s) from which the plant or animal was first collected. It is hoped that by attaching a genuine, present-day value (not necessarily monetary, but in the transfer of knowledge, building of capacity and training of counterparts in developing nations) to this biodiversity, then the value of protecting this biodiversity will likewise become real and tangible.WHAT IS COVERED BY THE CBD ?

It is not just the search for ‘drugs in the rainforest’ that the CBD covers. For centuries the gardens of the west have benefited from the wild plants of Asia, China, central and southern America, South Africa and Australasia. Today we recognise that even a humble garden plant that has been growing in our gardens for a century or more was probably removed from a country of origin when neither permission, nor informed consent was sought. Today horticulture is a billion euro business. Genetic engineering means that even the most microscopic piece of DNA may represent an extremely valuable asset. Thus unlike a mineral mine, or oil well, genetic raw materials can be removed from a country of origin and readily synthesised overseas.

SURELY SEED COLLECTING IS HARMLESS ?

It is true that plant diversity is most threatened by vegetation clearance, agriculture and alien plant introductions. Some may therefore argue that restricting free and open access for plant-collectors in countries such as China or Mexico will have a negligible effect upon conserving their flora. However, this is not what the CBD has been devised to do. It is a framework through which the true value of this genetic resource can be realised by the country of origin. Each time a ‘new’ introduction is made by underhand methods, then the overall value of that country’s biodiversity is reduced. Even the development of new plant cultivars using plant species from overseas is a small but noticeable depreciation in their genetic resource. The CBD has not been devised simply to end all plant collecting and the horticultural trade. Responsible access to genetic material should allow the source countries to share in the benefits that others may gain. A simple ideal is that if and when a valuable asset is developed then a percentage of the profits should be shared with the country of origin (this does not have to be simply financial). At present many developing countries with a rich biological heritage are understandably suspicious, and if we are ever to see a return to easy access we must all demonstrate good faith from now on.

WHAT PlantNetwork MEMBERS SHOULD DO

All responsible horticulturists should take immediate steps to ensure that they do not, through the best of intentions allow the genetic property of other countries to be dissipated. Many of the large Botanic Gardens, such as Edinburgh, Glasnevin and Kew have already implemented very strict CBD guidelines on their own collections. This means that they will only accept, exchange or transfer plants with organizations or individuals they are confident will treat the material with due regard and undertake the same responsibility in the growing and further distribution of these items. These gardens require that no plant can be accepted without proof that they were collected in a bona fide manner with the appropriate agreements and Prior Informed Consent of the countries of origin.

You can assist the CBD by not buying wild collected material unless you are satisfied that the seed or plants were collected in an appropriate manner, and that the country of origin has sanctioned the selling or distribution of this material. It may seem like a small nicety, but the impact of these many introductions is genuinely harmful and each time you refuse to accept such material then you are doing your bit in preserving and bolstering the value of that countries biodiversity.

However, that said, it is important that some sort of recompense can be channelled back to these countries – the purpose of the CBD is to generate and share that value – and what better way than through gardeners contributing some sort of royalty back to these countries. If your garden specialises in plants of a particular country, or a species of specific value, it would be worth considering educating your visitors about the global dimension of conservation. Could you be supporting, or fund-raising, for some local NGOs or charities involved with conservation in those countries?

PlantNetwork aims to:

  • provide information to its members on the CBD and promote an understanding of its provisions
  • seek to ensure that plant collections are collected, maintained and managed in accordance with the CBD
  • promote the use of plant collections in Britain and Ireland to support implementation of the CBD.

PlantNetwork has:

  • developed the above summary of what PlantNetwork members should do to implement the CBD.

To maintain these achievements, PlantNetwork will:

  • promote an understanding, and the implementation, of the CBD in all member gardens
  • promote the European Botanic Gardens Action Plan amongst its members
  • provide information on plant collections and the relevant activities of plant-collection holders to bodies co-ordinating the implementation of the CBD, nationally and internationally
  • participate in national and international activities in the development of policies for botanic gardens and other plant-collection holders in regard to the CBD, and specifically in regard to transfer of plant material and benefit sharing
  • develop the role of PlantNetwork’s members in the sharing of benefits derived from the use of plant collections, particularly with countries that are rich in biodiversity, but poor in resources to conserve it
  • promote and encourage individual collection holders in developing their own institutional policies and practices in accordance with the CBD, by providing examples of best practice, and sample documents on the PlantNetwork website.

Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (GSPC)

The Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (GSPC) was developed to halt the current and continuing loss of plant diversity, and was adopted by the Convention on Biological Diversity in April 2002. The Strategy arose from a resolution by the International Botanical Congress in St Louis, Missouri, in 1999, and further developed at a meeting organised by Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI), and issued as the Gran Canaria Declaration in 2000. It comprises 16 outcome-oriented targets for 2010, synchronised with the Convention’s strategic plan. It provides a flexible framework within which national or regional targets can be developed according to national priorities and capacities. The 16 global targets are listed under five objectives. Action must be taken to meet these targets by 2010, with reports on progress every four years, in 2006 and 2010.

PlantNetwork aims to encourage activities that support and implement the GSPC on a national basis in the UK and in Ireland. It has identified three themes for its response to the GSPC (see below).

Summary of the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation Targets
To halt the current and continuing loss of plant diversity

A. Understanding and documenting plant diversity
Target 1: A widely accessible working list of known plant species, as a step towards a complete world flora
Target 2: A preliminary assessment of the conservation status of all known plant species, at national, regional and international levels
Target 3: Development of models with protocols for plant conservation and sustainable use, based on research and practical experience
B. Conserving plant diversity
Target 4: At least 10 per cent of each of the world’s ecological regions effectively conserved
Target 5: Protection of 50 per cent of the most important areas for plant diversity assured
Target 6: At least 30 per cent of production lands managed consistent with the conservation of plant diversity
Target 7: 60 per cent of the world’s threatened species conserved in situ
Target 8: 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
Target 9: 70 per cent of the genetic diversity of crops and other major socio-economically valuable plant species conserved, and associated indigenous and local knowledge maintained
Target 10: Management plans in place for at least 100 major alien species that threaten plants, plant communities and associated habitats and ecosystems
C. Using plant diversity sustainably
Target 11: No species of wild flora endangered by international trade
Target 12: 30 per cent of plant-based products derived from sources that are sustainably managed
Target 13: The decline of plant resources, and associated indigenous and local knowledge innovations and practices that support sustainable livelihoods, local food security and health care halted
D. Promoting education and awareness about plant diversity
Target 14: The importance of plant diversity and the need for its conservation incorporated into communication, education and public awareness programmes
E. Building capacity for the conservation of plant diversity
Target 15: The number of trained people working with appropriate facilities in plant conservation increased, according to national needs, to achieve the targets of this Strategy
Target 16: Networks for plant conservation activities established or strengthened at national, regional and international levels
A Memorandum of Understanding between the Secretariat to the Convention on Biological Diversity and BGCI has been signed to promote the further development, implementation and monitoring of the Global Strategy. For explanation and further details, see www.bgci.org.uk

PlantNetwork has identified three themes for its response to the GSPC:

1. Reporting and influencing We will prepare reports on progress by PlantNetwork collections in meeting the GSPC targets

  • as a complementary contribution to the questionnaire for Plant Diversity Challenge (UK) and Irish national reporting mechanisms (for native flora; timetable dictated by existing UK reporting commitments);
  • as a contribution to reports on meeting European-level targets, through Planta Europa (mechanisms and timetable to be investigated); and
  • to highlight the contribution of UK and Irish collections in meeting targets internationally (advice to be sought from BGCI; timetable proposed for coordination with public awareness activity in 2007).

2. Coordinating We will distribute a simple ‘resource pack’ to members, as soon as possible, to facilitate the development of their own responses to the GSPC and to inform them of the PlantNetwork response. We will publish the PlantNetwork Directory of Collections online by September 2004, in a rudimentary form, and develop a plan at that time for its development thereafter. This is central to the role of PlantNetwork as a networking organisation and represents a specific commitment in Plant Diversity Challenge.

  • We will develop a strategy for linking PlantNetwork collections to the lead organisations for the UK and Irish BAP habitats and species, at national, regional and local level. This will involve the collation of information on PlantNetwork member activity (using regional PlantNetwork focal points), ensuring that PlantNetwork is represented in key BAP fora (e.g. UK Biodiversity Partnership meeting), and assembling case studies to inspire both parties into partnership.
  • We have begun a project in conjunction with the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh to coordinate a meta-collection of rare plants in the UK with PlantNetwork members gardens. By matching plants to gardens the UK will be able to fulfil its commitment to Target 8 (conserving 60% of its flora in ex-situ collections).
  • We will develop a strategy for linking PlantNetwork collections to the wider Planta Europa response to GSPC, in relation to conservation of European native plants.
  • We will collate information on PlantNetwork member activities relating to non-European plants on a country by country basis, to integrate with the CBD nation-oriented perspective. At a rudimentary level, this will lead to development of a list that links
    • a garden activity with
    • a country and
    • the relevant GSPC target to which that activity contributes. We will start work on the Cultivation & Propagation Database immediately, to demonstrate a clear commitment to progress.

3. Promoting We will identify a focal date for coordinating public awareness activities. A date in 2007 is proposed, to bring together

  • the publication of a report on the contribution of UK & Irish collections to international GSPC targets;
  • the distribution of a leaflet on the GSPC and our collections;
  • an activity or display at participating member gardens.

A strong online PlantNetwork presence at this date would be important. We will cultivate relations with the key media to raise public awareness of plant conservation generally, and the GSPC in particular. The planned coordination of activities described above will assist this process.

The UK’s response to the Global Strategy was considered at a meeting hosted by the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew with Plantlife and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee in February 2003. This Plant Diversity Challenge meeting concentrated on the response in terms of UK native species. After a period of consultation (see www.plantlife.org.uk), a report based on this meeting was prepared for submission by DEFRA–European Protection International (EPINT) as a case-study contribution to the technical meeting of the Convention of Biological Diversity (SBSTTA) in November 2003 and for the 7th Conference of the Parties to the CBD in Kuala Lumpur in February 2004. Meetings of various organisations and a series of stakeholder consultations have been held to consider implementation of particular targets.

Botanic Gardens in Britain and Ireland have a major role to play in implementing the Global Strategy, in terms of both UK native species and their extensive documented collections of exotic species. In particular, they are well placed to contribute to implementation of targets 3, 8, 14, 15 and 16.

PlantNetwork aims to encourage activities that support and implement the GSPC on a national basis in the UK and in Ireland.

PlantNetwork has:

  • reported progress to members on development of the Global Strategy (see PlantNet Newsletter 18 p.13, 20 p.35, 21 p.41, 22 p.35 and 23 p.17)
  • registered support for the International Agenda for Botanic Gardens in Conservation
  • taken part in the Plant Diversity Challenge meeting at Kew in February 2003
  • sent out a document to members on the Global Strategy, published in June 2003 by the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity in association with BGCI.
  • taken part in discussions on the Global Strategy at the third conference of the European Botanic Gardens Consortium, in Belgium in July 2003
  • reported on plans and progress in implementing the Global Strategy at the 2nd World Botanic Gardens Congress, in Barcelona in April 2004.
  • held two conferences to facilitate and support the contribution of botanic gardens and other documented collections in Britain and Ireland to implementing the Global Strategy; Implementing the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation, University of Reading, January 2004, and Practical Plant Conservation, National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin, April 2005
  • initiated, with the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE), with support from the Stanley Smith Trust, and the Friends of the RBGE, the Target 8 Project, which builds upon the role of ex situ cultivation in support of in situ conservation work.
  • liased with the Millennium Seed Bank in order to ensure the supply of culture material to support the Target 8 project.

To maintain these achievements, PlantNetwork will:

  • develop links with the Statutory bodies; English Nature, Scottish Natural Heritage, Countryside Commission for Wales, Environment and Heritage Services (Northern Ireland) and National Parks and Wildlife Service (Ireland) to further the work on the Target 8 project.
  • encourage as many member gardens as possible to take part in the Target 8 project
  • encourage member garden to highlight the importance of plant diversity and the need for its conservation in their communication, education and public awareness programmes.

2010 Targets for Botanic Gardens

The 2010 targets for Botanic Gardens were developed at the 2nd World Botanic Gardens Congress in Barcelona, Spain in April, 2004. Modelled and based upon the GSPC targets, they provide specific targets for botanic gardens and related plant collections. These targets were revised and finalised at the 2nd meeting of the International Advisory Council (IAC) of Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) in Austria, 2005.

Summary of the 2010 Targets for Botanic Gardens

Understanding and documenting plant diversity:
1: Through Botanic Garden herbaria and living collections a working list of known plant species will be developed.
2: An introductory assessment of the conservation status of all known plant species shall be carried out at regional, national and international levels.
3: Botanic gardens will develop and circulate studies and models regarding priority plants, within their area of expertise and interest, These studies will include information about their ecosystems and cultural landscapes.
Conserving plant diversity:
4: At least 10 % of each of the world’s ecological regions effectively conserved. Through research, recording of information and advocacy, Botanic Gardens can support regional, national and international conservation policies.
5: Protection of 50 per cent of the most important areas for plant diversity assured. Botanic gardens will contribute to the identification and conservation of areas of importance to plant diversity.
6: At least 30 per cent of production lands managed consistent with the conservation of plant diversity. The sustainable management and development of plant diversity in production lands will be supported by Botanic Gardens via the development and application of procedures and practices.
7: 60 per cent of the world’s threatened species conserved in situ. Botanic gardens must support and contribute to the conservation and management of threatened species in situ.
8: 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.
9: Botanic gardens support and partake in the in recovery programmes for 5 per cent of the world’s threatened plant species.
10: 70 per cent of the genetic diversity of crops and other major socio-economically valuable plant species conserved, and associated indigenous and local knowledge maintained\”. (pg 3, get ref.).
11: Management plans will be implemented for a minimum of 100 major alien species that threaten plants, their communities, habitats and ecosystems. All Botanic Gardens will carry out risk assessments of invasive species on their collections.
12: Botanic gardens will contribute to best practice for control programmes for a minimum of 100 major invasive species that threaten plants, their communities, habitats and ecosystems.
Using plant diversity sustainably:
13: No plant species of wild flora will be endangered due to international trade. Botanic Gardens must understand and implement CITES.
14: Through education and training Botanic Gardens will promote sustainable practices of international trade.
15: 30 per cent of plant-based products derived from sources that are sustainably managed (pg 3, get ref.) Botanic Gardens will promote the need for sustainable use of Plant resources.
16: Botanic gardens will contribute to programmes that attempt to reverse the decline of plant resources and associated local knowledge and practices, through their research, education and conservation activities.
Promoting education and awareness about plant diversity:
17: All Botanic Gardens will have an education programme which aims to communicate the importance of plant diversity and ecosystem services to sustainable life. In addition the need for action will also be promoted.
18: Botanic gardens to expand upon their capacity for communication, education and public awareness. This action will be achievable by employing or training through training or employing suitably qualified education staff and form relationships with others that can provide this expertise.
Building capacity for the conservation of plant diversity:
19: In order to achieve these targets the number of qualified personnel working in plant conservation may need to be increased. A sub- target states that the number of Botanic Garden staff working in the area of conservation, research and education should be doubled. In addition botanic gardens staff should develop their own programmes for training in plant conservation
20: In order to achieve the targets Botanic gardens should form /strengthen and networks. This target has three sub-targets;

  • At least 750 botanic gardens participate in the implementation of the International Agenda for Botanic Gardens in Conservation;
  • All botanic garden networks participate in the Global Partnership for Plant Conservation;
  • All botanic gardens participate in relevant national, regional and international conservation and education networks and partnerships.

International Agenda for Botanic Gardens in Conservation:

The global mission of botanic gardens in conservation can be summarised as follows:

  • Reduce the loss of plant species and their genetic diversity on a global scale.
  • Direct attention to the prevention of further degradation of the world’s natural environment.
  • Increase public awareness about the value of plant diversity and the threats facing it.
  • Put practical action in to place to improve of the world’s natural environment.
  • Promote the sustainable use of natural resources for present and future generations.

In order to achieve this mission a coordinated strategy of conservation, research and education needs to be undertaken


Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)

CITES provides a mechanism to regulate and monitor the international trade in threatened wild plants. Botanic gardens should have a central role in the enforcement and extension of CITES, as part of their general strategy and code of practice for plant conservation. CITES came into force in 1975 and, as a consequence, is perhaps better understood and implemented in botanic gardens than the CBD. Those wanting a good, short and understandable reference to CITES and botanic gardens should consult A CITES Manual for Botanic Gardens by John Akeroyd, Noel McGough and Peter Wyse Jackson (BGCI 1994).

PlantNetwork has:

  • held a conference on Plant Collections in the Twenty-First Century: CBD, CITES and Agenda 21, at Ness Botanic Gardens in Oct 1998

PlantNetwork will encourage its members to:

  • identify, and take particular care of, CITES plants within their collections
  • inform staff about CITES and its importance
  • inform garden visitors about CITES and the importance of not buying CITES-listed plants (or any other CITES-listed commodities) while on holiday
  • not import CITES-listed plants without the correct documentation.