At CUBG we hold over 8,000 plant species from around the world, with 4% of those species listed on the IUCN Red list as threatened. Of those, 18% are critically endangered. These plants are being looked after as an insurance policy against extinction in the wild. This is known as ex situ conservation.
Over 3,000 botanic gardens worldwide manage at least 105,634 species together, equating to 30% of all known plant species diversity, and conserve over 41% of known threatened species.
Ideally all known threatened species should have individual plants growing in at least one botanic garden to ensure that they do not go extinct. However, this is just a back-up strategy – threatened species should also be conserved in their natural habitat as a priority. This is known as in situ conservation.
The state of the world’s plants was recently assessed by Royal Botanic Garden’s Kew. The report makes fascinating reading, but the headlines are that 21% of the world’s plants are currently threatened with extinction and gymnosperms (plants like conifers and cycads) are the most threatened group. However only 7% of known plants have actually been assessed for their risk of extinction and we discover over 1,000 new plants every year. This means that plants may become extinct before we have even recognised that they are at risk, and perhaps even before they are discovered.
Despite the fact that more plant species go extinct every year than animal species, funding for plant conservation does not get the same attention as that for animal conservation for a variety of reasons. Scientists believe one of the main reasons for this discrepancy is a phenomenon known as “plant blindness”. For example, like this photographer, many people will focus on the hoverfly in the image below, but won’t often pay much attention to the flower it is pollinating. This has serious implications for plant conservation.
CUBG is part of a global network of Botanic Gardens called Botanic Gardens Conservation International, or simply BGCI, which is working on the global conservation of plants.
Most countries around the world have signed up to the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation, which is a programme within the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity. The BGCI is working hard to achieve the targets detailed in these international agreements, which are similar to the more well–known international climate change agreements.
As part of the Festival of Plants this year, we have asked two amazing speakers to talk about their work in the world of plant conservation.
Our first speaker is Anastasiya Timoshyna who works for TRAFFIC – a leading non-governmental organisation working globally on trade in wild animals and plants in the context of both biodiversity conservation and sustainable development.
The illegal wildlife trade is a topical issue right now in terms of its implications for the spread of novel viruses, but illegal trade in plants also has serious implications for the functioning of whole ecosystems.
Anastasiya focuses on ensuring the trade in wild medicinal and aromatic plants is sustainable and legal. Her talk below is titled Wild at Home: Why wild plants matter and how to save them.
Our second speaker is Alexandra Davey from Flora and Fauna International.
There are many conservation organisations dedicated to conservation globally. Fauna and Flora International (FFI) is one of the oldest and has built a reputation for its pioneering work and science-based approach to conservation.
Alexandra is responsible for their work on plant conservation and within that, the Global Trees Campaign. Her talk below, Global Trees Campaign: Saving the world’s most threatening trees, introduces some of the inspiring projects she manages around the world.