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No Pest Management Without Botanic Gardens

31 August 2005
Eichhornia crassipes

Many harmless plants and animals have become important pest organisms once they were transferred to new areas and regions of the world. This was often accidental with world trade, or deliberately through settlers who took plants to the colonies as ornamental plant or kitchen herbs. Plants completely harmless in their country of origin proved to be aggressive pests rendering swaths of land unsuitable for farming. The Global Taxonomy Initiative seeks to address this increasingly important phenomenon of our times.

Examples are: the Water Hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) from the Amazon covers African streams today; the White Top or Hoary Cress (Cardaria draba) from Europe is found in North America; the Asian Giant Hogweed or Cartwheel flower plant (Heracleum mantegazzianum) is invading the highway system in Europe; the Himalayan Balsam or Policeman's Helmet (Impatiens glandulifera), native to tropical Asia is invading woods and streams in Europe.

The importance of these so-called "invasive species" is underpinned by the Global Invasive Species Programme (GISP), and by the Convention on Biological Diversity.

In order to counter these plants CABI-Bioscience is developing biological pest management, based on organisms, most often insects, from the home countries of the pest plants. The more specific these organisms are to the pest plant, the better.

This procedure is efficient with two prerequisites. You need to know where the pest comes from, it is only then that you can systematically search for the plant and its pests. This will also show under which climatic conditions the plant's pest will prosper. This knowledge is often provided by the natural history museums in the form of regional floras, but if it is not available further research is needed, which is costly.

The new organism must prove its suitability to combat the experimental plant. Seeds especially with a substantial genetic diversity is required to culture the plant. The only institutions capable of providing great genetic variability are botanic gardens with the back up of the herbaria. This is why CABI-Bioscience has close relations with these institutions and regularly relies on their support in pest experiments.

This cooperation saves money in developing pest management protocols and reduces the costs for botanic gardens in real terms. Botanic gardens fulfil many functions in developing pest management regimes and it would be extremely expensive and impossible to develop without botanic gardens.

As an example of the close cooperation is a list of botanic gardens which collaborate with CABI-Switzerland:

Austria : Botanic Garden, Vienna
Belgium : National Botanic Garden of Belgium at Meise
Canada : Botanic Garden, Montreal
Denmark : Botanic Garden, Copenhagen
Finland : Botanic Garden, Turku
Germany : Botanic Gardens in Aachen, G?ttingen, Karlsruhe, Leipzig and Marburg; Botanic Gardens of the Humboldt University of Berlin; Botanic Garden of the University of Konstanz
Italy : Botanic Garden of the University of Genoa; Botanic Garden of Hanbury, Latte; Botanic Garden of the University of Padua ; Botanic Garden of the University of Palermo
Russia : Botanic Garden, Moscow
Slovakia : Botanic Garden of the University of Bratislava
United Kingdom : Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Annual Report 2002 of CABI-International Switzerland (CABI Bioscience Switzerland Centre)

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