Arboretum supports Global Strategy for Plant Conservation

by Jon Hetman, Director of External Relations & Communications
November 19, 2010

Arboretum supports Global Strategy for Plant Conservation

In October, the Arnold Arboretum helped strengthen goals for plant conservation. Representatives of 193 governments attended the Conference of the Parties (COP-10) meeting in October in Nagoya, Japan, to discuss the future of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The meeting adopted a retooled Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (GSPC), which set higher targets and goals for plant conservation efforts through 2020. This work was guided by a global evaluation of living plant collections, supported by the Arnold Arboretum’s partnership in the 2010 North American Collections Assessment.

The renewed GSPC, like its predecessor, has 16 targets. Of particular interest to botanic gardens and arboreta is Target 8, which now calls for conserving “at least 75% of threatened plant species in ex situ collections, preferably in the country of origin, and at least 20% available for recovery and restoration programs” by 2020. Previous agreements for 2010 had set more modest Target 8 goals—conserving 60 percent of threatened plants in accessible ex situ collections and including 10% of them in recovery and restoration programs. “In the face of an uncertain future,” BGCI notes in its global report of ex situ collections, “an urgent priority must be conservation though seed-banking and living collections for as many plants as possible, by way of an insurance policy.”

The critical role botanical institutions play in plant conservation is underscored by the North American Collections Assessment, a joint project of the Arnold Arboretum, Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI-US), and the United States Botanic Garden. The project identifies 9,619 rare and threatened taxa currently held by 220 institutions throughout Canada, the United States, and Mexico. Early analysis has shown that more than 35% (9,500+) of native rare taxa are maintained in North American collections. Of these, over 1,850 taxa are maintained in seed banks or other germplasm storage facilities and nearly 1,900 (20%) taxa are cultivated by botanic gardens. ‘Conserving North America’s Threatened Plants,’ a report to be released this December, will provide detailed assessment results to help guide conservation efforts in the North American botanical community toward meeting the new Target 8 goals.

“It is wonderful to be a partner in the North American Collections Assessment with BGCI and the United States Botanic Garden,” notes Michael Dosmann, Curator of Living Collections at the Arnold Arboretum. “We brought not only our own perspective of curation and collections management to the table, but also the assessment of ex situ conservation collections made by former Putnam Fellow Abby Hird.” Hird, now working for BGCI-US, is based at the Arnold Arboretum and is coordinating the North American Collections Assessment.