Education centre > A Vital Role for Zoo Educators: the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation and You!
A Vital Role for Zoo Educators: the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation and You!
Sarah Kneebone, Education Officer, BGCI
Plants are a vital part of the worlds’ biodiversity and an essential resource for human well-being. They play a key role in maintaining basic ecosystem functions and are essential for the survival of the world’s animal life. Yet, despite our reliance on plants, a crisis point has been reached – it is thought that between 60,000 – 100,000 plant species are threatened worldwide.
In 2002 a Global Strategy for Plant Conservation was legally adopted by all governments who are signatories of the Convention on Biological Diversity. Using a clear set of targets it provides a framework for actions to bring about plant conservation, sustainable use, benefit-sharing and capacity building at global, regional, national and local levels with the ultimate goal to halt the loss of plant diversity.
Target 14 of the strategy involves 'Promoting education and public awareness about plant diversity: The importance of plant diversity and the need for its conservation incorporated into communication, educational and public-awareness programmes'. Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) is the lead organisation for Target 14 and has been working on consultations to produce targets and milestones for its achievement. As zoos and zoo educators are one of the major stakeholders within the biodiversity education field BGCI is anxious to gain their input.
The Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (GSPC) is a document which outlines a series of targets through which the ultimate aim of halting the current and continuing loss of plant diversity can be achieved. The strategy provides a framework to ‘facilitate harmony between existing initiatives aimed at plant conservation, to identify gaps where new initiatives are required, and to promote mobilization of the necessary resources.’ Its mission is to ‘be a tool to enhance the ecosystem approach for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and focus on the vital role of plants in the structure and functioning of ecological systems’ (GSPC 2002).
The Global Strategy for Plant Conservation started out as an initiative from the Botanical Congress in St Louis 1999, which called for plant conservation to be recognised as an urgent international priority. Following this, interested parties met in Gran Canaria, Spain, and produced a declaration. The declaration was presented to the CBD, who then agreed that a specific strategy for plant conservation was needed. The initial production of the Global Strategy was in conjunction with many national and international organisations, such as World Conservation Union (IUCN), International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPGRI), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), WWF, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation. (UNESCO) and Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI),
The specific aims of the GSPC can be grouped into five main themes;
The strategy outlines the different aspects of these aims in a series of 16 targets. Each of these is explained with terms and technical rationale.
It is the achievement of these targets and themes which will lead to the ultimate goal – to halt the current and continuing loss of plant diversity.
Who is involved with the implementation of the GSPC?
Each target has been ‘adopted’ by one or more organisations as a lead partner to arrange a series of consultations to agree on subtargets, practical measure and milestones for their particular target. These lead partners are: WWF, BGCI, CITIES, Plant Life International, Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, People and Plants International, World Conservation Union (IUCN), United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), UNEP-World Conservation Monitoring Centre and the Global Invasive Species Programme
Why would the GSPC be relevant to Zoos?
Many of the targets which have been agreed on and are undergoing consultation are particularly pertinent to zoos, both in their own conservation work, the way they run and the messages that they give out to the general public. If your zoo has any sort of habitat, species-based or eco-system based conservation or education programme, for example the 2001 – 2002 Rainforest campaign led by the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA), then you are already actively supporting the aims and objectives of the GSPC. Likewise, if your zoo is involved with national plant collections, training of horticulturalists, conservation research, is a member of any conservation networks, or teaches about indigenous knowledge and local traditions, its work forms a valuable contribution towards the fulfilment of the GSPC.
Particular targets which may be the most applicable to zoos are;
Many of the targets mentioned above also have relevance to zoo educators through their vital work; raising awareness about conservation issues to the general public. Targets 14, 15 and 16 are all ‘cross-cutting’ – they are achieved as part of all other targets within the strategy. Naturally however, it is Target 14, the “incorporation of the importance of plant diversity into public awareness programs” which is of greatest interest to educators, whether in zoos, botanic gardens, museums or any other environmental education facility. As the Global Strategy has been adopted as part of the CBD by the original CBD signatories, this makes it a legal document. Supporting work towards achieving these targets is therefore a legal obligation by the signatory countries – this could have interesting implications for future funding of zoo educators’ programmes!
So, we’ve got the targets, what now?
The next step of the process is to work out exactly how the targets are to be implemented, identifying their component parts so that activities and milestones can be suggested to set up projects and measure their achievement. The GSPC targets are subject to continual consultation as part of the decision making process leading to definite conservation results. Lead partners for each target coordinate consultations with relevant stakeholders who propose practical suggestions for taking the GSPC forward. These lead partners meet regularly to report on progress within their consultations, whether these are local, national or international. For example, IUCN and Plantlife international are working on a proposal for the implementation of Targets 2 and 5. They plan to submit this proposal for funding to the Global Environmental Facility (GEF).
Zoos are relevant stakeholders for many of the GSPC targets. It is important for zoos to contact the relevant lead organisations and CBD focal points in their countries to express their commitment to this process.
What is happening with Target 14?
The inclusion of this target into the GSPC means that it focuses people on the inclusion of plants – their conservation, diversity and importance, into environmental education. Through such education, the message of the importance of plants for our existence can be transmitted to the general public. Creating active support for plant conservation by empowering the general public through increased knowledge, appreciation and understanding of plants is a vital aspect of the GSPC. As with many conservation issues, the support of the masses is critical to its success.
There has been some consultation on Target 14 so far:
The sub targets that have been under consultation are:
The beauty of Target 14 is that anyone involved with environmental education, formal (i.e. schools) and informal, for all age groups, can play an active role in its achievement. This also means that there are many people, including zoo educators, who are already doing so. We currently have lots of case studies on our website and published in Roots, our education review, but we need more to include on the website to inspire others – so let us know what you are doing!
The lead partner for Target 14 consultations is Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI). To meet our responsibility in this, so far BGCI;
There are many aspects of work for the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation that zoos and zoo educators can become involved with and use to their advantage;
CEPA is the Communication, Education and Public Awareness programme, created by the CBD to address Article 13, i.e. education about biodiversity. One part of the programme is the CEPA portal, its website address is
Some zoo horticulturalists are already using the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation to plan and focus their work within a zoo. Eddie Mole, of Bristol Zoological Gardens (BZG) says that “GSPC has already made a difference to our plans in a comparatively short time….. the GSPC has focused our attention and is a valuable developmental and motivational tool”. So far this year he has publicized GSPC to the UK and European Zoo Horticulture community and publicised the GSPC’s merits through articles for the UK Zoo Federation, European Association of Zoos and Aquaria, and UK Zoo Plant Group. BZG has taken part in a DEFRA (UK Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) Consultative Forum on Non-Native Species Policy in Bristol and contributed at the UK Plantnet (botanic garden network) response to the GSPC meeting. They are also planning their first new plant exhibit, a biodiversity garden in line with their new GSPC influenced strategy. The GSPC offers an excellent opportunity for zoo horticulturalists and educators to share knowledge and understanding; working together for a common aim.
The Global Strategy for Plant Conservation is an ambitious and important agreement with the overall aim to stop the loss of plant biodiversity. In order to achieve this goal, many organisations and stakeholders are needed to work together, focussing their conservation efforts on their targets set. With their plant collections, existing conservation work, education programmes and huge numbers of visitors, zoos have an important role to play in the implementation of the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation. Zoo educators in particular can do, and may already be doing, this with their education provision. We are keen for zoos to become more involved in the consultations and stakeholder processes currently taking place and for zoo educators to take the ideas and implications of the GSPC back to their organisations for further consideration and action.
For any more information on the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation contact BGCI.
Mole, E. (2004) ‘The GSPC’s influence on planning at Bristol Zoo Gardens.’ In Press.
Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (2002) “Global Strategy for Plant Conservation”
Van Boven, G., Hesselink, F. (2002) Mainstreaming Biological Diversity; The role of communication, education and Public Awareness, IUCN
Wyse Jackson, P. (2003) The Global Strategy for Plant Conservation: Power Point Presentation, unpublished.
Wyse Jackson, P. (2003), Progress in the implementation of the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation, Botanic Gardens Conservation News, vol. 3, no. 10
Wyse Jackson, P. (2001), Progress towards a global strategy for Plant Conservation, Botanic Gardens Conservation News, vol. 3, no. 6
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