June 2, 2015
With more than 8,000 tree species threatened with extinction, an urgent need exists for botanical gardens to protect threatened trees in dedicated conservation collections. A new report published in the July issue of the international conservation journal Oryx offers strategies and guidelines to help botanical gardens strengthen the conservation value of their tree collections. The article is part of a tree conservation-themed special issue of the journal.
Led by researchers at The Morton Arboretum, and co-authored by Botanic Gardens Conservation International, the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, and Quarryhill Botanical Garden, the report synthesizes perspectives from leaders of the global public garden community to evaluate whether current living collections are fulfilling conservation objectives. It also provides recommendations to help gardens strengthen their efforts to protect threatened tree species.
“The world currently faces great loss in tree biodiversity, and public gardens now acknowledge that existing living tree collections fall far short of adequately protecting the overall diversity of threatened tree species,” said Nicole Cavender, Ph.D. of The Morton Arboretum, one of the lead researchers on the study. “Through our research and recommendations, we are providing the tools to help gardens participate more effectively in tree conservation, as a coordinated global effort is needed to take on this important task.”
Key highlights of the report:
- Protecting plant species for the purpose of conservation is declared explicitly in the mission statements of most major gardens, but few maintain living tree collections with any real conservation value, especially for tree species.
- Current challenges facing gardens include a lack of strategic conservation focus, collection management limitations, and gaps in fundamental biological information for trees.
- Gardens need to develop measurable conservation goals, such as those aligned with targets and timeline of the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation.
- There are many strategies that gardens can employ to improve their tree conservation efforts, including prioritizing genetically diverse tree collections, strengthening tree science research efforts, supporting botanical degree programs, creating collaborative hubs of tree research and volunteering to grow threatened tree species.
Eighteen leaders from the botanical garden and conservation communities were interviewed for the report, and further opinions were gathered through a discussion panel hosted at the 5th Global Botanic Gardens Congress.