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BGCI Responds to Introduction of Alien Species Paper

23 March 2011

The publication of a paper about botanic gardens and the introduction of alien species has provoked controversy, with reporting in the journal Nature and New Scientist magazine. The publications described a paper by Philip Hulme, a weed specialist at Lincoln University in New Zealand, called 'Addressing the threat to biodiversity from botanic gardens' (reference below) published in the journal Trends in Ecology & Evolution .

BGCI responds

Responding from BGCI, Suzanne Sharrock - Director of Global Programmes at Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) said:

“The combined global plant collections of botanic gardens include around one third of the world’s known plant species. These are of immense importance for scientific research, horticulture and education.”

“There is always the potential for introduced species to ‘escape’ from these collections and become established in the wild – as illustrated by the study presented in this paper.   However such examples are mainly historical and we believe that botanic gardens today are more aware than ever of their responsibilities in this respect. “

“BGCI’s focus is to help botanic gardens become part of the solution, for example using their collections as the basis for the development of early warning systems in the face of changing environmental conditions. Botanic gardens are increasingly undertaking risk assessments of their collections and developing  public outreach programmes to inform the public and other stakeholder of the dangers posed by invasive species.” 


Other members of the botanic gardens community also took issue with Hulme's paper. Dr Christopher P. Dunn, Director Lyon Arboretum in Honolulu, Hawaii commented:

'I have been sent a pre-publication version of this article and have been in constant correspondence with several directors of public gardens that boast major conservation programs and which are all members of BGCI and have ratified the "Voluntary Codes of Conduct."' 
'I take considerable umbrage with the Lyon Arboretum (University of Hawaii) being implicated as the guilty party for introduction of several taxa in 1920.  If the dates of introduction in the paper were accurate, then it should be the Hawaii Sugar Planters Association that is "to blame," as it was their property at the time.  There was no Lyon Arboretum until 1953. when the HSPA deeded the land to the University of Hawai'i.  In fact, in 1953, it was called the Manoa Arboretum.  It was not renamed the Harold L. Lyon Arboretum until 1957.' 
'What is really irksome is that a colleague of mine (Sarah Reichard at the University of Washington) has shown conclusively, using published and herbarium records, that these taxa attributed to the Lyon Arboretum were in Hawai'i prior to 1900.'
'Despite some of the good and valid points made by the author, he unfortunately has seen fit to perpetuate some unfortunate fallacies.He also seems unaware of major organized efforts by botanic gardens in Europe, and other parts of the world, to take a leadership role and tackle the invasive species issue head-on.'


Hulme, P. E. Trends Ecol. Evol. 26, 168-174 2011 Article

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