Our work > BGCI / IOS Cactus and Succulent Plant Survey
BGCI / IOS Cactus and Succulent Plant Survey
Background to the Study
A significant proportion of cacti and succulent plant species are listed as threatened on the IUCN Red List and national red lists and are listed under the appendices of CITES. Their threatened status and popularity as collector items makes the conservation of these plants an important and urgent task.
Ex situ conservation has been recognised as an increasingly valuable conservation method over recent years as habitat destruction and degradation limit in situ options. Many cacti and succulent taxa are put greatly at risk by illegal extraction and overharvesting and many are prevalent in the illegal international trade market.
The BGCI / IOS collaboration intends to bring together collection holders who maintain cacti and/or succulent collections for conservation, education or display purposes.
This study will collate information from ex situ collection holders to determine the current conservation value of these collections and establish/strengthen links between institutions, BGCI and the IOS to further these efforts and help ensure the safeguarding of these important and fascinating plants.
The International Organisation for Succulent Plant Study (IOS)
The IOS was established in 1950. It is a non-governmental organisation with an aim to promote the study and conservation of succulent and allied plants. A key aim of the organisation is to encourage collaboration between scientists and curators of living succulent plant collections.
In 2010 Sara Oldfield, Secretary General of BGCI, and David Hunt, Secretary of the IOS, published an article in BGjournal 7(1) announcing the BGCI / IOS collaboration and calling all collection holders to recognize the important role to play in ensuring that no species of cactus or other succulent plant becomes extinct.
The article listed a number of Critically Endangered species recorded as completely absent from collections, according to BGCI’s PlantSearch database. The need to address this by increasing the number of threatened taxa represented in collections and to enhance the recording of the content of ex situ collections was apparent.
The present study has developed from the collaboration and aims to further progress towards these important goals.
This study aims to motivate institutions to upload their collections data to PlantSearch so the true status of ex situ conservation efforts for cacti and succulent plants can be recognized and a more thorough list of priority species for conservation can be produced.
Please note that all data provided to PlantSearch and provided in the survey will be confidential and only used by the BGCI / IOS project.
A further aim of the study is to promote good practice in labeling and documentation of plants. The quality of data held about a collection is extremely important in identifying which collections or which plants within a collection can be used as propagation material to safeguard species from extinction. The level of interest in receiving plant identification or verification from IOS experts will be assessed as part of the survey.
Case study: the National Botanic Garden of Belgium
Verification was carried out at the National Botanic Garden of Belgium in 2007. David Hunt, IOS Secretary, and Dr Nigel Taylor, previously of RBG Kew, verified the plants held in the major glasshouse collection of cacti at the National Botanic Garden of Belgium at Meise. When all plants had been verified, a list of taxa maintained in the collection was uploaded to PlantSearch identifying the status of these taxa under IUCN and CITES lists and how many institutions worldwide held the same species.
The results showed that approximately one third of species held in the garden’s collection of approximately 1,600 cactus taxa were recorded as found in only one or a few other collections worldwide. The remaining two thirds were either not threatened or were recorded as present in a large number of ex situ collections worldwide. Further analysis showed that only 21 out of 251 wild-collected accessions were considered valuable for conservation purposes.
The National Botanic Garden of Belgium made the bold decision to donate over 1000 cacti to other institutions, including the Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris, for use in education and display purposes. In addition, some surplus species were discarded. Efforts and resources could then be concentrated on the successful ex situ protection and propagation of the identified priority conservation species.
The BGCI / IOS study aims to highlight the important species present in collections, encourage their conservation, and establish links between institutions so ex situ cacti and succulent plant conservation efforts can be strengthened. It is up to each institution how they use the information provided by PlantSearch and this study, but the value of the results will depend on the amount of data we obtain, so please join this vital effort to conserve these valuable species!
To find out how you can contribute to the study click here