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The effectiveness of botanic garden collections in supporting plant conservation: a European case study

Maunder, M., Higgins, S. and Culham, A. ORCID: (2001) The effectiveness of botanic garden collections in supporting plant conservation: a European case study. Biodiversity and Conservation, 10 (3). pp. 383-401. ISSN 1572-9710

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Europe has the greatest concentration of botanic gardens in the world, they cultivate extensive collections of plants that include samples of European threatened plant species. This study looks at the effectiveness of these collections in supporting species conservation. A three part study is presented: (1) the results of a survey and assessment of threatened plants in botanic gardens, as defined by the Bern Convention; (2) case studies illustrating current issues in the ex situ management of European threatened plant species; and (3) presentation of policy recommendations on further improving botanic garden contributions to European plant conservation. The survey indicated that of 119 European botanic gardens in 29 European countries, 105 are cultivating 308 of the 573 threatened plant species listed by the Bern Convention. The survey identified 25 botanic gardens in 14 countries undertaking 51 conservation projects focused on 27 Bern listed species. In particular this survey has established that the majority of taxa are held in a small number of collections, dominated by non-wild origin accessions, and are not adequately documented. The majority of specimens in botanic gardens are cultivated out of the range country and not contributing to a specific conservation project. We review the genetic representation and documentation of origin in collections. Existing plant collections contain representatives of populations, now lost in the wild and maintain samples of at least nine European plant taxa identified as 'Extinct in the Wild'. However, inadequate standards of record keeping has compromised the conservation value of many collections. We highlight the dangers of hybridisation and disease in ex situ collections. The results suggest that botanic garden collections are skewed towards horticulturally robust and ornamental species and do not fully reflect priorities as defined by the Bern Convention. Recognising the limitations of traditional botanic garden collections we propose that botanic gardens more effectively utilise their two core competencies, namely scientific horticulture and public display and interpretation. The unique horticultural skills resident in European botanic gardens could be more effectively utilised through the application of horticulture to the management of wild populations.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Life Sciences > School of Biological Sciences > Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
ID Code:30326
Publisher:Springer Netherlands

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