Reviewing plant conservation in the Anthropocene

An interesting review is just out by the Grand Old Man of plant conservation (or one of them), Vernon Heywood, under the title Plant conservation in the Anthropocene – challenges and future prospects. It’s a long read, but worth it, and thanks go to the Kunming Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences for funding open access.

One bit that struck me in particular comes at the bottom of page 13 of the PDF version, where Prof. Heywood compares the status of ex situ conservation in wild and cultivated species:

Protected Area systems were one conspicuous exception but for other areas, such as ex situ conservation, no attempt was made to put in place the necessary global institutional structure. This contrasts with the situation for agriculture and forestry which when faced with the widespread erosion of genetic diversity in crops, a gene bank system and appropriate protocols for the collection, storage and access to seed was developed by organizations such as the FAO, CGIAR and IBPGR (now Bioversity International) and a number of national and regional gene banks were also created. For ex situ conservation of wild species, no serious efforts were made to address the issue of capacity and it was left to botanic gardens to attempt to take on the role of ex situ conservation of plants although in most cases without the necessary staff, support or finance (Heywood, 2009). Spain was one of the few countries — in fact a pioneer — to recognize this need and the environment agencies of some autonomous governments helped to create or support seed banks in some botanic gardens or other centres. Even more critical is the situation for the conservation of target species in situ for which no dedicated institutional arrangements have been put in place with the consequence that the relevant 2020 targets are unlikely to be met.

While fair enough as far as it goes, this seems to me to ignore the work of the Millennium Seed Bank at Kew in supporting partnerships for ex situ conservation of wild plant species around the world, and indeed also downplays the successes of botanical gardens, and their networking arrangements under Botanic Gardens Conservation International.

3 Replies to “Reviewing plant conservation in the Anthropocene”

  1. And there are the thousands of pasture species – all wild – conserved in CG and other genebanks. There are also lots of `target species’ conserved in situ and putting in place an institutional framework (think the FAO Seed Treaty) might not be the best solution. The general problem is that if people actually doing the work don’t blow their trumpets, others will.

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