Botanic Gardens Conservation International
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Safety Nets Project: Background

The Safety Nets project is about the protection of medicinal plants around the world. Huge pressure on medicinal plant resources, largely from habitat destruction and over-harvesting, is straining nature's ability to cope and we are putting human health at risk as a result. 

Botanic gardens are playing a major role in addressing this issue and we support their work and that of anyone else attempting to conserve medicinal plants by collating vital information and making it available to all.   In our recent medicinal plants report we identify the most threatened plants in this group and make recommendations on what we can do to reverse the situation.

Providing Information for All to Use

The first stage of this project was to gather data on key medicinal plant species and upload this information onto the PlantSearch database.

This is now complete, so botanic gardens and other users of PlantSearch can see the medicinal status of some 4,000 plant species in botanic garden collections.

We’re continuing with this work, since there are many more plants with medicinal uses, and aim to provide detailed information on key species via an information portal linked to the PlantSearch database.

Stakeholders Input

The second phase of the project was undertaking a broad consultation exercise, begun at the Third Global Botanic Gardens Congress in Wuhan, China in April this year.

We asked various medicinal plant conservation stakeholders - from botanic gardens to NGOs to Universities to government departments - what they felt the priority medicinal plant species were for conservation action, which conservation methodologies worked best and how BGCI could help them in their work.

The response was fantastic and over 80 questionnaires were returned to us back in London.

Read the Results

These responses and other inputs have resulted in the publication of our report; ‘Plants for life: medicinal plant conservation and botanic gardens’.

As well as outlining the key trade, livelihood and conservation issues surrounding medicinal plants, the report illustrates the many ways in which botanic gardens can and do contribute to protecting the plants that heal us. What came across very clearly was the expansion of the role of botanic gardens; from traditional ex situ conservation to more and more involvement with community work and partnering with other bodies to contribute towards really successful in situ medicinal plant conservation work.

Today, the relevance of botanic gardens to medicinal plant conservation is as strong as it was hundreds of years ago, when the very first botanic gardens were developed specifically for medicinal plant cultivation and research. From visionary education initiatives to cutting-edge genetic technology research; the report draws together the inspirational myriad involvement of botanic gardens in medicinal plant conservation and recommends focus areas for future work.

Where Next?

We’ve also incorporated much of the feedback received into developing an action plan for medicinal plant conservation by BGCI, building on the data gathered over the past year to begin species specific projects, protecting the plants that protect so many people around the world.

We gratefully acknowledge the support of the Rufford Maurice Laing Foundation for this project