Saving Species with Small Botanic Gardens

Happy to help our friends at Botanic Gardens Conservation International with their fundraising for small gardens.

Botanic gardens globally conserve more than 40% of threatened plant species in their living collections and seed banks. Many small botanic gardens, however, have limited resources to carry out plant conservation actions, particularly in the most biodiverse regions of the world. For example, Puerto Rico has 19 critically endangered tree species, each with fewer than 50 individuals remaining in the wild. Only four of these species are safely conserved in botanic gardens.

Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) is a membership organisation representing a network of 500 botanic gardens in more than 100 countries, including the largest and most influential gardens in the sector. BGCI is the largest plant conservation network in the world, and aims to collect, conserve, characterise and cultivate samples from all of the world’s plants as an insurance policy against their extinction in the wild and as a source of plant material for human innovation, adaptation and resilience.

BGCI’s mission is to mobilise botanic gardens and engage partners in securing plant diversity for the well-being of people and the planet.

BGCI’s Global Botanic Garden Fund helps support small botanic gardens carrying out vital plant conservation action. Each grant will be awarded to enable the garden to better contribute to the conservation of the world’s plant diversity. Already many botanic gardens have benefited from these small conservation grants from BGCI, from seed collecting expeditions targeting threatened plant species in India to providing essential plant collecting equipment to gardens across the Caribbean.

Get Involved
Help BGCI reach more botanic gardens and save more plants. The Big Give Christmas Challenge runs for a week from #GivingTuesday on the 27th November until Tuesday 4th December and all week donations will be doubled until we reach our target of £20,000!

How to Donate
From midday #GivingTuesday 27th November to midday 4th December go to this website to get your donation doubled.

Genebanks in the cloud

Here’s a half hour podcast on genebanks, which says some slightly strange things but is reasonably accurate overall.

It wasn’t entirely clear to me, but it sounded at the end as if they will be discussing policy issues on the next episode.

Brainfood: Global taro, Gender gap, Eschatology, Cacao domestication double, Soybean epigenetics, Rice domestication, Domestication space, Botanic gardens, Agrarian care, Open seeds, Sustainable nutrition, Broadbean breeding, Resistant beans, Yam environments, Trade networks

With Gabe on the trail of the wild banana

From the Facebook page of Banana Natural Biodiversity Mapping – Citizen Science, which I think we have blogged about before:

CIRAD and its partners are currently collecting Musa material in Vietnam, within the frame of the “BSV for Banana Diversity” project. As an expert to the project, Gabe Sachter-Smith has begun to post his observations to iNaturalist, including Musa balbisiana and many other endemic species. He then added the observations to our Banana Natural Diversity Mapping Project ( #BananaDivMapping #CitizenScience #iNaturalist #AddYours #ShareTheNews

Follow Gabe along as he explores banana diversity. He’s also on Instagram.

Almost like being there. Almost.

Czeching the social value of crop diversity

Our friend Nik Tyack explains his paper Social Valuation of Genebank Activities: Assessing Public Demand for Genetic Resource Conservation in the Czech Republic. I think we included it in Brainfood recently, with the usual pithy summary, but it’s always nice to get it at greater length, and from the horse’s mouth to boot. Thanks, Nik.

Most attempts to put a value on genebank activities and the conservation of crop diversity have focused on specific uses of conserved materials. For example, Brennan and Malabayabas (2011) calculate that varietal improvement efforts using (among others) genetic resources from the genebank of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) yielded a high internal rate of return of 28%. Economists have also examined farmer preferences for the conservation of genetic diversity, like Poudel et al. (2009), who find that Nepalese rice farmers were willing to pay about $2 per year for ex situ conservation and $4 per year for in situ conservation of rice varieties. However, the total economic value of a properly conserved collection of crop diversity is not restricted to direct observed use or farmer preferences for conservation, but also includes a broader set of social values provided to the public, including option value, bequest value, insurance value, and existence value.

In this recent analysis, we take the case of the Czech Republic and use stated preference methods to generate an estimate of the social value of Czech crop diversity – focusing on elicited public preferences for crop diversity conservation at the national level. Using a properly managed online panel, we surveyed a nationally representative sample (n=1037) of Czechs (as well as a smaller sub-sample of 500 respondents from the agricultural region of South Moravia) to determine how much they would be willing to pay (WTP) to conserve a given number of crop varieties over the next ten years (using a double-bounded dichotomous choice model).

We find that Czechs, on average, were willing to pay about $9 (223 Czech crowns) for a crop diversity conservation program in general, regardless of the number of varieties conserved. This WTP estimate was about 12% larger for the average number of varieties offered in the valuation experiment (18), and about 24% more for the maximum number of varieties (35).

Aggregated across the Czech population (aged 18-69), we find that Czechs were willing to pay in total about $70 million for crop diversity conservation – 4.6 times more than the total conservation costs for the entire Czech agrobiodiversity conservation programme. Based on these results, we argue that the Czech Republic could safely expand their crop diversity conservation efforts given the public demand for these activities. As shown in the table below, our estimates of aggregate nation-wide WTP were consistently more than twice the conservation costs regardless of the model used.

The basic idea of the paper is that public decision-making about how much to spend on crop diversity conservation should include a consideration of how much the public cares about conservation, and in addition should acknowledge that a national collection of crop diversity does not just ensure the availability of material for plant breeders, but also provides a whole set of other values such as those provided by a national park system or public museums. For example, just as an individual may be willing to pay something to ensure that their children and grandchildren will have an opportunity to visit Yosemite, they may also be willing to pay something so that their descendants will have the chance to eat a favorite fruit variety.

The estimates we provide represent an approximation of this social value of crop diversity conservation for the case of the Czech Republic. The study illustrates an empirical approach of potential value for policymakers responsible for determining funding levels for genetic resource conservation, and similar empirical work may be used to potentially provide justification for increased spending on the conservation of crop diversity worldwide.