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The Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (GSPC) beyond 2010

September 24, 2010

On September 23-24 I participate in a network workshop between botanical gardens where we discuss how to preserve plants (GSPC). This particular workshop is generously hosted by the Queen Sirikit Botanical Garden in Chiang Mai, and aims at the gardens of Southeast Asia.

As there are 5-6 times more fungal species than plant species, a future aim is to include fungi, mosses and algae too. We also discussed “Mycoretum”, a mushroom garden, as a new feature in public botanical gardens.

We discussed how to inform local people about the need for plant biodiversity (tourism, medicine, culture, horticulture, agriculture, functioning forest ecosystems to battle global warming, erosion, drought and flooding), and how to inform tourists, so that they can avoid ‘invasive weed watching’ (such as the Mexican sunflower in Mae Hong Son) and select jungle biodiversity trekking instead. We also encourage each other to link to each other’s home pages, to facilitate the public’s search for knowledge. This is something Dokmai Garden is already doing via this blog (look to your right).

We also discussed the legal trouble which stunts research and development of medicines, caused by governments which do not allow transfer of plants out of their countries. We also think that although the majority of botanical research is performed in the west, a rotation system between the continents for hosting botanical garden conferences would enable more local researchers to participate. Meeting eye to eye and chat is far better than video conferences or e-mail.

Another issue was the fact that some plants are extinct in the wild, and only remain in botanical gardens. Such plants may deteriorate genetically within some generations, as the natural selective forces are weaker than in nature. The aim is to use botanical gardens, and private gardens, as a short intermediate stage for reproduction, and then planting seedlings back into their natural habitat, if the habitat still exists. All gardeners should aim at seed propagation to maintain genetic diversity, rather than using cloning (tissue culture, cuttings etc).

I believe this networking is very fruitful, and significant changes in both the Queen Sirikit Botanical Garden and other Asian gardens will take place within the coming years. The educational role of botanical gardens is far more important than providing a colourful spot fur Sunday picnics. How to convey this message to the public was also discussed.

If you wish to read more, go here: www.bgci.org.uk

Eric Danell

Plants, mushrooms and animals are best preserved in their original environment, such as this high elevation tropical evergreen forest. Nearby Doi Inthanon national park, Thailand.

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