As conservers of threatened plant species in a world that
needs plants to sustain human life, botanic gardens carry a
great responsibility, more than 300 international delegates
were told at the opening of the 5th Global Botanic Gardens
Congress in Dunedin yesterday.
In the opening session, Botanic Gardens Conservation
International secretary-general Dr Sara Oldfield spoke of the
progress of her organisation in achieving the targets of the
global strategy for plant conservation, the challenges in
achieving those targets and the key things the congress would
discuss over the coming week.
The targets of the strategy included having at least 75% of
threatened plant species in ex-situ collections and at least
20% available for recovery and restoration projects, she
said, and provided a framework for botanic gardens' planning
for the future.
Botanic gardens were doing well in some areas needed to
achieve the targets, for example, in networking, but were not
doing so well in other areas, particularly in co-ordinating
information on threatened species and seed-banking for
One of the main issues was that it was still unknown globally
how many plant species were under threat of extinction, she
''We don't have the sense of scale of the problem, and we
need to be able to communicate that with people to convince
them why our work is so fundamentally important.''
Botanic gardens also needed to improve their use of seed
banks for restoration of degraded areas, focus on the quality
of collections, and increase the use of gardens as
educational tools to get people more engaged with nature.
Plants were fundamental to life on Earth and the congress
would discuss how gardens could work together better to
address the challenges of plant conservation at a time of
rapid global change, she said.
Delegates should focus on answering some key questions, such
as how to define a botanic garden in the 21st century, how to
achieve global plant conservation targets, whether botanic
gardens could really solve the environmental problems of the
world, how gardens could better share plant collection data,
how to ensure participation of all botanic gardens in doing
so, and how botanic gardens could more effectively
communicate the science of what they do.
The congress runs for a week, and includes keynote addresses,
symposia, workshops and field-trips covering the technical
and other challenges and achievements of botanic gardens.