Brazilian Botanic Gardens and Plant Conservation

Ariane Luna Peixoto

Universidade Federal Rural do Rio de Janeiro
Caixa Postal 74 582, 23 851 Seropedica, Itaguai, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Abstract

Brazil, with a surface area of approximately 8 500 00 sq km, holds nearly 15% of the world's biological diversity in its biomass. Since the establishment of the first national park in 1937, the nationwide conservation policy has significantly expanded environmental preservation areas. Today Brazil has 123 conservation units at Federal level, covering a total of 20 920 945 ha, not enough to ensure the preservation of the landscapes and species in their natural habitat, since this area amounts to only 1.7% of the country's territory.

In this setting, and in view of their nature and function, botanic gardens hold already a prominent position, although lagging behind both in number and physical area. At present Brazil has 15 botanic gardens actually established, covering an area of 843 ha, half of which is accounted for by the Rio de Janeiro and Brasilia Botanic Gardens. In addition to their core areas, seven botanic gardens have associated natural areas which together cover 40 452 ha.

Because of the diversity of the country's ecosystems and the small number of botanic gardens, these institutions fail to cover a significant share of the national landscape and biota. In the north there is only one botanic garden, in the capital city of Belem, that gives priority to the conservation of Amazonian plants. Also in the north east there is only one botanic garden set in an Atlantic Forest area, and its priorities are the conservation of Northeastern Atlantic Forest native species. There is no botanic garden in the Atlantic Forest area dealing with the conservation of northeastern semi-arid plants. In the middle­west we find one of the largest Brazilian botanic gardens, set up in the savannahs, whose major activities are the study and conservation of savannah species. There is still no similar institution in the Pantanal (swampland) area.

Nine botanic gardens are located in the Brazilian southeast, three in the savannahs and six in Atlantic Forest areas, the latter focusing their activities on germplasm collection, breeding, conservation and managing Atlantic Forest species. In the south, we find three botanic gardens concentrating their activities in the southern areas and in subtropical forests.

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