Call for a Global Program on Conservation of Useful Plants and Traditional Knowledge:

7 May 2013

 A call to action

(Download Spanish version here and French version here)

On 1-2 May 2013 international experts on plants used by humankind met in St Louis Missouri to consider the ways in which a global crisis now underway—the loss of tens of thousands of plant species—can be addressed.  These threatened plants include species vital to the lives of people throughout the world, including plants used for food and nutrition, medicine, cultural and spiritual purposes, and the maintenance of livelihoods; they are needed to redress poverty, provide food security, and ensure sustainable development in many nations. Plants and their associated biocultural knowledge play an essential role in the ecosystem services that support all life on Earth.

This statement is not only an appeal to the international community to address the tragic loss of plant diversity but a call for the development of a concerted effort worldwide to address the loss of essential knowledge about plants and their uses, especially at the level of local communities.

The meeting specifically focused on the objectives of the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (GSPC), an initiative adopted by the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity in 2002, and subsequently updated in 2010, as well as the GSPC targets pertaining to the maintenance and preservation of useful and culturally significant plants. The participants concluded that there is also a great urgency to address the vital importance of traditional knowledge about plants, their utility, management, and conservation. This unique, often ancient, and detailed knowledge is typically held and maintained by local and indigenous communities.

The workshop contributors urged the development of a global program on the conservation of useful plants and associated knowledge, taking into account the need to:

• Call on the international community and governments to recognize the importance of wild and cultivated plant diversity, as well as the associated knowledge of their usefulness as a vital present-day and future resource. This should be accomplished through the successful implementation of the GSPC objectives and targets by 2020.

• Highlight the need for a concerted international effort to compile a widely accessible global catalogue of useful plants of importance for human kind, while respecting intellectual property rights, local ownership of knowledge and appropriate benefit sharing.

• Assist local peoples in the preservation of their traditional knowledge in a culturally appropriate manner.

• Stress the need for cross cultural and multilevel partnerships in the effort to build on and share experiences on conservation of culturally significant plants, their sustainable use, and associated knowledge. 

• Develop an international research platform to address gaps in scientific knowledge of useful plants.

• Facilitate capacity building and training opportunities in ethnobotany, particularly in countries and regions with significant gaps in such resources.

• Support and encourage biocultural knowledge transmission and custodianship.

• Develop the appropriate facilities, methodologies, and techniques to support culturally sensitive curation of biocultural collections (artifacts, herbarium vouchers, produces, living collections, etc.) and associated traditional knowledge.

• Elaborate and disseminate educational materials and resources in appropriate languages that support and promote the study and use of traditional knowledge, and insure their inclusion in educational curricula.

• Develop a toolbox of methodologies, case studies, manuals, and good practices in order to support the conservation of useful plant and associated knowledge.

• Highlight the need for measurable indicators that monitor progress in the conservation of useful plants and associated knowledge.

• Follow the framework provided by the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization (ABS) to the Convention on Biological Diversity and FAO’s International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, in order to manage and achieve ethical standards for access, fair and equitable benefit sharing, traditional resource and farmers’ rights, and the protection of intellectual property.


Mr. Vijay Barve
(Foundation for Revitalisation of Local Health Traditions, Bangalore, Karnataka, India)

Dr. Raza Bhatti
(Shah Abdul Latif University, Center for Biodiversity and Conservation, Khairpur (Mir's), Sindh, Pakistan)

Dr. Rainer Bussmann
(Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO, USA)

Dr. Robert Bye
(Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Mexico DF, Mexico)

Dr. Jin Chen
(Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Mengla, Yunnan, China)

Dr. Ehsan Dulloo
(Bioversity International, Rome, Italy)

Dr. Peter Giovannini
(Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Wakehurst Place, Ardingly, West Sussex, U.K.)

Dr. Edelmira Linares
(Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Mexico DF, Mexico)

Dr. Robert Magill
(Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO, USA)

Dr. Didier Roguet
(Conservatoire et Jardin botaniques, Chambesy, Geneva, Switzerland)

Dr. Jan Salick
(Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO, USA)

Dr. Tran Van On
(Hanoi University of Pharmacy, Hanoi, Vietnam)

Dr. Ina Vandebroek
(The New York Botanical Garden, Institute of Economic Botany, Bronx, NY, USA)

Mr. Glenn Wightman
(Northern Territory Herbarium, Palmerston, NT, Australia)

Dr. Peter Wyse Jackson
(Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO, USA)


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