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Introduction

Botanic gardens operate in most Caribbean nations and their diverse roles in biodiversity conservation, scientific research, public education and supporting sustainable development are well recognized. Amongst their living and preserved plant collections are tens of thousands of native and exotic plant species maintained in cultivation, seed stores and as herbarium reference collections. Many of the threatened plants of the Caribbean included in this collection are a vital component of conservation strategies to ensure the maintenance of Caribbean biodiversity. However, despite important work already undertaken by some botanic gardens, it is recognized that the important task of conserving the remarkable diversity of Caribbean flora and its habitats has only just begun.

As resources for leisure, public recreation and relaxation, botanic gardens are vital destinations for hundreds of thousands of local visitors and tourists each year. Their positive contributions to promoting public environmental awareness and sustainable tourism, so fundamental to many Caribbean economies, must also be stressed. In this way botanic gardens will remain much loved amenity resources but increasingly effective in providing national leadership on the need for environmental sustainability and the vital importance of plants in our lives.

The 1st Conference of the Caribbean Botanic Gardens for Conservation Network, hosted by Fairchild Tropical Garden, Miami, Florida, USA, was held from the 15th-18th of May, 2002. At this conference bylaws and objectives of the organization were adopted and a network steering committee elected. The 2nd conference will include business meetings of the Network and the election of a new steering committee with the operations and work programs of the network for the coming years to be determined.