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25 December 2017, Volume 39 Issue 06
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  • Editorial
    The future of plant conservation and the role of botanic gardens
    Vernon H. Heywood
    2017, 39(06):  309-313.  doi:10.1016/j.pld.2017.12.002
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    Articles
    Plant conservation in the Anthropocene-Challenges and future prospects
    Vernon H. Heywood
    2017, 39(06):  314-330.  doi:10.1016/j.pld.2017.10.004
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    Despite the massive efforts that have been made to conserve plant diversity across the world during the past few decades, it is becoming increasingly evident that our current strategies are not sufficiently effective to prevent the continuing decline in biodiversity. As a recent report by the CBD indicates, current progress and commitments are insufficient to achieve the Aichi Biodiversity Targets by 2020. Threatened species lists continue to grow while the world's governments fail to meet biodiversity conservation goals. Clearly, we are failing in our attempts to conserve biodiversity on a sufficient scale. The reasons for this situation are complex, including scientific, technical, sociological, economic and political factors. The conservation community is divided about how to respond. Some believe that saving all existing biodiversity is still an achievable goal. On the other hand, there are those who believe that we need to accept that biodiversity will inevitably continue to be lost, despite all our conservation actions and that we must focus on what to save, why and where. It has also been suggested that we need a new approach to conservation in the face of the challenges posed by the Anthropocene biosphere which we now inhabit. Whatever view one holds on the above issues, it is clear that we need to review the effectiveness of our current conservation strategies, identify the limiting factors that are preventing the Aichi goals being met and at the same time take whatever steps are necessary to make our conservation protocols more explicit, operational and efficient so as to achieve the maximum conservation effect. This paper addresses the key issues that underlie our failure to meet agreed targets and discusses the necessary changes to our conservation approaches. While we can justifiably be proud of our many achievements and successes in plant conservation in the past 30 years, which have helped slow the rate of loss, unless we devise a more coherent, consistent and integrated global strategy in which both the effectiveness and limitations of our current policies, action plans and procedures are recognized, and reflect this in national strategies, and then embark on a much bolder and ambitious set of actions, progress will be limited and plant diversity will continue to decline.
    Botanic gardens should lead the way to create a “Garden Earth” in the Anthropocene
    Charles H. Cannon, Chai-Shian Kua
    2017, 39(06):  331-337.  doi:10.1016/j.pld.2017.11.003
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    The strength and expertise that botanic gardens bring to conservation are based on their detailed knowledge and understanding of the care, management, and biology of a diversity of plant species. This emphasis on the organism has led to many ex-situ and in-situ conservation programs aimed at protecting endangered species, restoring threatened populations, and establishing living plant and seed collections of endangered species. In China, the scale and pace of change in land and resource use, often leading to environmental degradation, has created a strong emphasis on improving environmental conditions. If done properly, being "green" can be a surprisingly complex issue, because it should encompass and exploit the whole of plant diversity and function. Unfortunately, ‘green’ often includes a small portion of this whole. Earth's rich plant diversity presents considerable opportunity but requires expertise and knowledge for stable and beneficial management. With the dawning of the Anthropocene, we should strive to live on a "Garden Earth", where we design and manage our environments, both built and natural, to create a healthy, beneficial living landscape for people and other organisms. The staff of botanic gardens worldwide and the living collections they maintain embody the best examples of sustainable, beautiful, and beneficial environments that thrive on plant diversity. This expertise should be a fundamental resource for agencies in all sectors responsible for managing and designing "green" infrastructure. Botanic gardens should actively engage and contribute to these opportunities, from large public infrastructure projects to small private conservation efforts. Here, we discuss several ongoing conservation efforts, primarily in China, and attempt to identify areas where botanic gardens could make a significant and meaningful difference.
    Adapting the botanical landscape of Melbourne Gardens (Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria) in response to climate change
    Timothy J. Entwisle, Chris Cole, Peter Symes
    2017, 39(06):  338-347.  doi:10.1016/j.pld.2017.11.001
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    Botanic gardens around the world maintain collections of living plants for science, conservation, education, beauty and more. These collections change over time -in scope and content-but the predicted impacts of climate change will require a more strategic approach to the succession of plant species and their landscapes. Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria has recently published a ‘Landscape Succession Strategy’ for its Melbourne Gardens, a spectacular botanical landscape established in 1846. The strategy recognizes that with 1.6 million visitors each year, responsibility for a heritage-listed landscape and the need to care for a collection of 8500 plant species of conservation and scientific importance, planting and planning must take into account anticipated changes to rainfall and temperature. The trees we plant today must be suitable for the climate of the twenty-second century. Specifically, the Strategy sets out the steps needed over the next twenty years to transition the botanic garden to one resilient to the climate modelled for 2090. The document includes a range of practical measures and achievable (and at times somewhat aspirational) targets. Climate analogues will be used to identify places in Australia and elsewhere with conditions today similar to those predicted for Melbourne in 2090, to help select new species for the collection. Modelling of the natural and cultivated distribution of species will be used to help select suitable growth forms to replace existing species of high value or interest. Improved understanding of temperature gradients within the botanic garden, water holding capacity of soils and plant water use behaviour is already resulting in better targeted planting and irrigation. The goal is to retain a similar diversity of species but transition the collection so that by 2036 at least 75% of the species are suitable for the climate in 2090. Over the next few years we hope to provide 100% of irrigation water from sustainable water sources, and infrastructure will be improved to adapt to predicted higher temperatures and more climatic extremes. At all times there will be a strong focus on assisting the broader community in their response to climate change.
    Plant conservation in Australia: Current directions and future challenges
    Linda Broadhurst, David Coates
    2017, 39(06):  348-356.  doi:10.1016/j.pld.2017.09.005
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    Australia is a large, old and flat island continent that became isolated following the breakup of the Gondwanan super continent. After more than 40-50 M years of independent evolution, approx. 600,000-700,000 species now call Australia home. More than 21,000 of these species are plants, with at least 84% of these being endemic. Plant taxa are protected, conserved and managed under a range of legislation at the State-and Territory-level as well as Federally for matters of national significance. This can create issues of misalignment among threatened species lists but generally there is co-operation among conservation agencies to reduce misalignments and to manage species irrespective of jurisdictional borders. Despite significant investment in programs designed to assist the recovery of Australian biodiversity, threatened plants in particular appear to be continuing to decline. This can be attributed to a range of factors including major threatening processes associated with habitat loss and invasive species, lack of public awareness of the cultural and socio-economic value of plant conservation, and our relatively poor understanding of basic species taxonomy and biology, especially for those species that have specific interactions with pollinators, symbionts and herbivores. A recent shift in Federally-based conservation programs has been to identify 30 key plant species for recovery through the setting of measurable targets, improving the support provided to recovery teams and encouraging industry, business and philanthropy to support conservation actions.
    Ex situ Flora of China
    Hongwen Huang, Jingping Liao, Zheng Zhang, Qingqing Zhan
    2017, 39(06):  357-364.  doi:10.1016/j.pld.2017.12.001
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    The role of living collections-based research and discovery has been a prominent feature throughout the history of evolution and advance of botanical science:such research is the core and soul of the botanical gardens. Currently, there are c. 162 Chinese botanical gardens, harboring c. 20,000 species in China. As an example of initiatives to utilize the garden cultivated flora to address plant diversity conservation and germplasm discovery for sustainable agriculture and the bio-industries, the Ex situ Flora of China project aims to catalog and document this mega-diversity of plants that are cultivated in the Chinese botanical gardens. The concept of Ex situ Flora of China is a complete new formulation of species, based on garden cultivated individuals and populations, to obtain better morphological descriptions, provide multipurpose applicability and a fundamental data service that will support national bio-strategies and bioindustries. It emphasises integrative information, accurately collected from living collections across different Chinese botanical gardens, on biology, phenology, cultivation requirements and uses of plant resources, which are normally not available from traditional Floras based on herbarium specimens. The ex situ flora should provide better information coverage for taxonomy, biological and introduction and collection data and color photos of stems, leaves, flowers, fruits and seed, as well as useful information of cultivation key points and main use of each plant. In general, the Ex situ Flora of China provides more useful information than the traditional Flora Reipublicae Popularis Sinicae. The project of Ex situ Flora of China is planned to be one of the most important initiatives of the plant diversity research platform for sustainable economic and social development in China.
    Conservation utility of botanic garden living collections: Setting a strategy and appropriate methodology
    Sergei Volis
    2017, 39(06):  365-372.  doi:10.1016/j.pld.2017.11.006
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    In the realities of the modern world, when the natural habitat is rapidly disappearing and the number of imperiled plants is constantly growing, ex situ conservation is gaining importance. To meet this challenge, botanic gardens need to revise both their strategic goals and their methodologies to achieve the new goals. This paper proposes a strategy for the management of threatened plants in living collections, which includes setting regional conservation priorities for the species, creation of genetically representative collections for the high priority species, and usage of these collections in in situ actions. In this strategy, the value of existing and future species living collections for conservation is determined by the species' conservation status and how well the accessions represent their natural genetic variation.
    The contribution of botanic gardens to ex situ conservation through seed banking
    Katherine O'Donnell, Suzanne Sharrock
    2017, 39(06):  373-378.  doi:10.1016/j.pld.2017.11.005
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    Target 8 of the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation calls for ‘at least 75 per cent of threatened plant species in ex situ collections, preferably in the country of origin, and at least 20 per cent available for recovery and restoration programmes by 2020’.
    Botanic gardens make a significant contribution to ex situ conservation of wild species with more than a third of plant species represented in botanic gardens collections. These collections are a combination of living collection and seed banked material. Seed banking can provide an efficient form of conservation for wild plant genetic diversity.
    Information from Botanic Gardens Conservation International's (BGCI) databases (GardenSearch, PlantSearch, ThreatSearch and GlobalTreeSearch) has been analysed as well as survey data to report on global, regional and national seed banking trends.
    Information from BGCI's databases indicates that there are at least 350 seed banking botanic gardens in 74 countries. In total 56,987 taxa have been banked including more than 9000 taxa that are threatened with extinction. 6881 tree species are stored in ex situ seed bank collections. More than half (3562) of these tree species are single country endemics and represent species from more than 166 countries.
    This study suggests that institutions are increasingly conserving plant species via seed banking. However the majority of species in collections that have a conservation assessment are not threatened with extinction. This disjunction between species that are threatened and those conserved in seed banks needs to be addressed. Data from BGCI's databases can be used to enable prioritisation of threatened plant species for collection and conservation in seed banks. Further recommendations for botanic gardens involved in seed conservation are presented.
    Complementarities of two existing intermediate conservation approaches
    Sergei Volis
    2017, 39(06):  379-382.  doi:10.1016/j.pld.2017.10.005
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    The need for integration of ex situ and in situ approaches in conservation of plants has long been recognized. However, ex situ collections have numerous limitations that reduce their utility for conservation, necessitating the introduction of new, more appropriate, flexible and less costly approaches. Two new approaches that can be called "intermediate" between in situ and ex situ, and bridging them in some way have been proposed over the last two decades. In these approaches material collected in natural populations is planted and maintained outside the original location, but with a different purpose. While the purpose of the inter situs approach is reintroduction, the concern of the quasi in situ approach is long-term storage of species genetic diversity. I view these two approaches as complementary and necessary components of conservation-oriented restoration. In restoration of a degraded habitat using threatened species (i.e. inter situs), quasi in situ collections can serve an important role in providing longterm preservation of these species' genetic diversity and production of seeds needed for restoration.
    Plant micro-reserves in Valencia (E. Spain): A model to preserve threatened flora in China?
    Simón Fos, Emilio Laguna, Juan Jiménez, Miguel Ángel Gómez-Serrano
    2017, 39(06):  383-389.  doi:10.1016/j.pld.2017.10.002
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    The Valencian Community (eastern Spain) was the pioneer territory establishing plant micro-reserves (PMRs). Its model to protect small sites for endemic and endangered plants has been exported to several countries around the globe. This paper highlights 1) the role of PMRs to complement the protection provided by large protected areas, 2) how the establishment of PMRs fosters the increase of floristic knowledge, and 3) the fact that continuous monitoring of PMRs also yields new records of endangered species found within the same PMRs. The flexibility of the PMR approach -it can be adapted to other national and regional legislationsallows its transfer to other rich-biodiversity regions and countries such as China.
    Center for Plant Conservation's Best Practice Guidelines for the reintroduction of rare plants
    Joyce Maschinski, Matthew A. Albrecht
    2017, 39(06):  390-395.  doi:10.1016/j.pld.2017.09.006
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    Recent estimates indicate that one-fifth of botanical species worldwide are considered at risk of becoming extinct in the wild. One available strategy for conserving many rare plant species is reintroduction, which holds much promise especially when carefully planned by following guidelines and when monitored long-term. We review the Center for Plant Conservation Best Reintroduction Practice Guidelines and highlight important components for planning plant reintroductions. Before attempting reintroductions practitioners should justify them, should consider alternative conservation strategies, understand threats, and ensure that these threats are absent from any recipient site. Planning a reintroduction requires considering legal and logistic parameters as well as target species and recipient site attributes. Carefully selecting the genetic composition of founders, founder population size, and recipient site will influence establishment and population growth. Whenever possible practitioners should conduct reintroductions as experiments and publish results. To document whether populations are sustainable will require long-term monitoring for decades, therefore planning an appropriate monitoring technique for the taxon must consider current and future needs. Botanical gardens can play a leading role in developing the science and practice of plant reintroduction.
    Biological and cultural diversity in the context of botanic garden conservation strategies
    Christopher P. Dunn
    2017, 39(06):  396-401.  doi:10.1016/j.pld.2017.10.003
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    Impacts of global climate change, habitat loss, and other environmental changes on the world's biota and peoples continue to increase, especially on islands and in high elevation areas. Just as floristic diversity is affected by environmental change, so too are cultural and linguistic diversity. Of the approximately 7000 extant languages in the world, fully 50% are considered to be at risk of extinction, which is considerably higher than most estimates of extinction risks to plants and animals. To maintain the integrity of plant life, it is not enough for botanic gardens to consider solely the effects of environmental change on plants within the context of major conservation strategies such as the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation and the Convention on Biological Diversity. Rather, botanic gardens should actively engage in understanding and communicating the broader impacts of environmental change to biological and cultural diversity.