Plant Diversity ›› 2018, Vol. 40 ›› Issue (04): 181-188.DOI: 10.1016/j.pld.2018.07.006

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The role of botanical gardens in scientific research, conservation, and citizen science

Gao Chena,b,c, Weibang Suna,b,c   

  1. a Kunming Botanical Garden, Kunming Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Kunming 650204, Yunnan, China;
    b Yunnan Key Laboratory for Integrative Conservation of Plant Species with Extremely Small Populations, Kunming, 650204, China;
    c Key Laboratory for Plant Diversity and Biogeography of East Asia, Kunming Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Kunming, 650204, Yunnan, China
  • Received:2018-04-28 Revised:2018-07-19 Online:2018-08-25 Published:2018-09-08
  • Contact: Weibang Sun
  • Supported by:

    Support for this study was provided by grants from the NSFCYunnan joint fund to support key projects (Grant no. U1602264) and the Young Academic and Technical Leader Raising Foundation of Yunnan Province (2015HB091) to G. Chen; and the Ministry of Science and Technology of China granted funding for a National Key Programme of China:Survey and Germplasm Conservation of PSESP in Southwest China (2017FY100100) to W.B. Sun.


Plant diversity is currently being lost at an unprecedented rate, resulting in an associated decrease in ecosystem services. About a third of the world's vascular plant species face the threat of extinction due to a variety of devastating activities, including, over-harvesting and over exploitation, destructive agricultural and forestry practices, urbanization, environmental pollution, land-use changes, exotic invasive species, global climate change, and more. We therefore need to increase our efforts to develop integrative conservation approaches for plant species conservation. Botanical gardens devote their resources to the study and conservation of plants, as well as making the world's plant species diversity known to the public. These gardens also play a central role in meeting human needs and providing well-being. In this minireview, a framework for the integrated missions of botanical gardens, including scientific research, in/ex situ conservation, plant resource utilization, and citizen science are cataloged. By reviewing the history of the development of Kunming Botanical Garden, we illustrate successful species conservation approaches (among others, projects involving Camellia, Rhododendron, Magnolia, Begonia, Allium, Nepenthes, medicinal plants, ornamental plants, and Plant Species with Extreme Small Populations), as well as citizen science, and scientific research at Kunming Botanical Garden over the past 80 years. We emphasize that Kunming Botanical Garden focuses largely on the ex situ conservation of plants from Southwest China, especially those endangered, endemic, and economically important plant species native to the Yunnan Plateau and the southern Hengduan Mountains. We also discuss the future challenges and responsibilities of botanical gardens in a changing world, including:the negative effects of outbreeding and/or inbreeding depression; promoting awareness, study, and conservation of plant species diversity; accelerating global access to information about plant diversity; increasing capacity building and training activities. We hope this minireview can promote understanding of the role of botanical gardens.

Key words: Botanical gardens, Citizen science, Conservation biology, Endangered plants, Germplasm, Horticulture