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Why Plant Conservation is Important
This page describes what biodiversity is, how it is being affected by humans, and why we should care! If you have comments about the work of botanic gardens to save plants, please contact us.
Biodiversity is Being Lost at an Unprecedented Rate
Humankind has affected our planet in many ways. In the past few centuries the changes in society and the increasing pace of development mean that the scale of these impacts have catastrophically grown. There are now many threats to the natural resources of our planet. These include habitat loss and degradation, invasive aliens, over-exploitation of resources, and even climate change.
"Biodiversity" is the full complexity and variety of life, at all scales, from genetic diversity, up to species and even ecosystem diversity. So, we use the term "biodiversity conservation" to refer to attempts to conserve and any parts of this natural diversity. Plant diversity is a major plant of total biodiversity - just think of the richness of tropical rain forests - it forms the basis of all food webs, and underpins the functioning of all ecosystems. So, plant conservation is an essential component of efforts for biodiversity conservation. As plants are at risk of extinction, in all parts of the world, their conservation is a priority.
Species extinction (where a species ceases to exist) is a normal process. However, normally species evolve just about as fast other species go extinct, as part of the normal process of natural selection (on average, a species persists for about 10 million years). In the past occassional catastrophic events such asteroid impacts, have caused 'extinction crises', where millions of species become extinct in a relatively short period of time. The impacts of humankind upon the world's natural resources mean that we are now in a 'sixth extinction crisis'. According to the IUCN, 784 extinctions have been recorded since the year 1500 (the arbitrary date selected to define "modern" extinctions), with many more likely to have gone unnoticed. Most of these modern extinctions can be attributed directly or indirectly to human effects. Thousands more species are threatened in every region of the world.
Biodiversity Loss Matters
Human kind has many major problems to tackle, so it can be hard to see why we should care about thousands of species are going extinct. The origins of conservation were rooted in a general concern to protect nature because of its intrinsic and aesthetic values. However, although this it is still important, in recent decades the it has become apparent that we should conserve the natural world for reasons of enlightened self interest, for the continued survival and well-being of human-kind. It has been estimated that the benefits of conserving nature outweigh the costs by 100:1 - some of the key aspects are listed below.
What Happens Next?
What happens next is up to all of us. We all influence whether plants are sustainably used and conserved for future generations. Plants are relevant and vital to all of us and we should all be aware that plants across the world are endangered with many facing extinction, and support efforts that tackle this problem. Plant diversity is especially important because it underpins the functioning of all ecosystems, as well as providing us with many direct benefits. BGCI believes that botanic gardens have a key role to play in ensuring that we conserve plant diversity for the benefit of all.
Links: Conservation Organisations
We've been compiling links relating to plant conservation that you might find useful.
Cultivate, BGCI's regular e-bulletin brings you opinion, comment, case studies and surveys for and about the world's botanic gardens. Sign up today - click the link.
3rd Global Botanic Gardens Congress
The 3rd Global Botanic Gardens Congress has drawn to a successful conclusion. Attracting nearly 1,000 participants from 67 countries, the proceedings are now online, along with blog updates, pictures and useful links for you to continue benefiting from the event.
Plant Conservation Books
BGCI's aStore presents books grouped by theme, in this case you can browse books on Plant Conservation - all in one place. Not only that, but all your purchases generate income for BGCI, so we can continue to support vital plant conservation efforts in the world's botanic gardens.
The Secret Life of Trees (2005)
Diverse information about botany and taxonomy, ecological trivia and ethnobotanical insights.
The Commercial Use of Biodiversity
In this volume the authors explain the provisions of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) on access and benefit-sharing, the effect of national laws to implement these, and aspects of typical contracts for the transfer of materials.
Make a Donation
Support BGCI's work in combating the devastation of the world's plant life. Help us work towards a world in which plant diversity is valued, secure and able to support all life on earth.