Botanic Gardens Conservation International
BGCI provides a global voice for all botanic gardens, championing and celebrating their inspiring work. We are the world's largest plant conservation network, open to all. Join us in helping to save the world's threatened plants.

Workshop Conclusions of the Third International Botanic Gardens Conservation Congress

Volume 2 Number 2 - July 1993


The 3rd International Botanic Gardens Conservation Congress was held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil from 19 to 25 October 1993. A full report of the Congress has already been published in Botanic Gardens Conservation News 2(1). On 23 October, the whole day was spent by delegates in a series of simultaneous workshops on the following topics:
  1. Plant documentation and records in botanic gardens
    Coordinators - Eduardo Dalcin (Rio de Janeiro), Diane Wyse Jackson (BGCI), Dr David Michener (Ann Arbor), Dr Kerry Walter (WCMC).
  2. Botanic gardens and practical horticulture
    Coordinators - Susan Wallace (Lake Wales), Dr Etelka Leadlay (BGCI)
  3. Education and environmental awareness: developing a Botanic Gardens Education Strategy
    Coordinators - Carmelita Santoro Bottino (Rio de Janeiro), Gail Bromley (Kew), Nieves Gonzales (Las Palmas), Terry Keller (New York), Pamela Pirio (St Louis), Andrew Smith (Hobart), Francisco Villamandos (C¢rdoba), Julia Willison (BGCI)
  4. Botanic gardens in Latin America: what is their future role?
    Coordinators - Hermes Cuadros (Cart gena), Dr Enrique Forero (New York), Edelmira Linares (M‚xico City), Sergio Zalba (Bahia Blanca)
  5. Botanic Gardens and Plant Trade
    Co-ordinators - Margarita Clemente Mu¤oz (C¢rdoba), Anthony Lamb (Sabah), Noel McGough (Kew), Mark Richardson (Canberra), Andrew Vovides (Xalapa)
  6. Botanic gardens and plant reintroductions
    Coordinators - Vernon H. Heywood (BGCI), Mike Maunder (Kew)
  7. Plant conservation methodologies

    a)  Tissue culture for botanic gardens
         Coordinator - Michael J. Fay (Kew)
    b)  In situ plant conservation for botanic gardens
         Coordinator - Br ulio F.S. Dias (IBGE/IBAMA)
    c)  Seed banking/ex situ plant conservation for botanic gardens
         Coordinator - Lidio Coradin (CENARGEN/EMBRAPA)

On completion of the workshops, the co-ordinators of each prepared a summary of the deliberations and subsequent conclusions of each which were copied and made available to all delegates for review at the final session of the Congress on 24 October, to review the workshop conclusions. The edited texts of these workshop conclusions are given below.


Workshop 1. Plant documentation and records in botanic gardens

1. The participants in this workshop noted that in order to be effective in a plant conservation programme, botanic gardens need to consider and address the following points at all staff levels within their institution, from administrative to ground staff:

  1. What is the accessions policy of the Garden?
  2. Why keep the garden records?
  3. What garden records are kept?
  4. Who keeps the garden records?
  5. How are the garden records kept?

Although in most institutions the records office is charged with implementing the answers to the above questions, it is not usually authorized to make the decisions. Each garden must ensure that an institutional policy on records is developed and that all decisions are widely understood and implemented. Once these issues are resolved by each institution it will be possible for each botanic garden to effectively improve (often using a computer) their plant records systems.

2. The participants considered that BGCI should draft and circulate a short document on the value for plant conservation of improving plant record functions in individual botanic gardens, including compatibility with the International Transfer Format for Botanic Garden Plant Records (ITF).

3. Furthermore, the participants agreed that individual botanic gardens, botanic garden networks, and BGCI should explore the means to:

  • Redraft the ITF to make it more understandable to those without specialist computer training or expertise;
  • Make arrangements to ensure that the ITF is available in the world's major languages;
  • Improve dissemination of the ITF to potential users;
  • Offer or co-ordinate training courses in the ITF and plant record systems.

4. The participants believed that the ITF fields should form the minimum information stored by a garden, whether as a card index, a simple word-processed document or a complex relational database.

5. In addition, they pointed out that the exchange of information about conservation collections raises challenging questions concerning the ownership and open availability and control of the use of data. These issues must be addressed openly and fairly by means of continued dialogue among botanic gardens and between botanic gardens and BGCI.

Workshop 2. Botanic gardens and practical horticulture

  1. The participants in this workshop agreed that the professional status of horticulture and horticulturists in botanic gardens must be upgraded. There must be more training, better career prospects and higher salaries. The term horticulturist has various meanings in different institutions and may denote either gardeners or scientific level staff. The participants acknowledged that it is absolutely critical for plant conservation that good horticulturists are available who are experts in growing plants.
  2. They also noted that there is a need for a more comprehensive interface between the fields of horticulture and plant conservation. Horticultural education should include more studies in genetics and population biology.
  3. The participants recognized that botanic gardens should aspire to the highest horticultural standards in collections management and documentation. However, when this is not practical with large-scale projects in areas of high biodiversity in developing countries, there may be a parallel modified simpler system.
  4. Furthermore, they stressed that horticulturists must be involved in all facets of the conservation programme of a botanic garden. Botanists must provide more information on the ecology and population size of the accessions grown and the conservation status of the species throughout its range and that this information which is gathered in the field is crucial to understanding the plants' needs in cultivation.
  5. Consideration was given during the workshop of the global need for more basic horticultural training in plant conservation projects. The large-scale needs for training in areas of high biodiversity must be recognized by international funding bodies. Attention was given to the question of whether teams of people from botanic gardens in developed countries could assist in the training of personnel in developing botanic gardens.

Workshop 3. Education and environmental awareness: developing a Botanic Garden Education Strategy

The participants recognized that botanic gardens can offer facilities that together no other organization has available, such as:

  • excellent living plant collections
  • a great diversity of plants, usually plants from many countries
  • facilities such as herbaria, seed banks, propagation nurseries etc. which enable the public to see plant conservation and research in action
  • staff with specific conservation skills and expertise
  • they are accessible to large numbers of people
  • they have the ability to translate plant science into simple language effectively through education.

The participants agreed that botanic gardens need to develop an Botanic Gardens Environmental Education Strategy to:

  1. provide guidelines for botanic gardens setting up education programmes
  2. help botanic gardens develop their own individual responses to this education strategy
  3. help outline the priorities for the education work of botanic gardens
  4. provide information on successful programmes from other botanic gardens which can be used as models

In addition, the participants in the workshop agreed that BGCI needs to produce guidelines for botanic gardens on how to develop their mission statement for environmental which would encompass:

  1. why botanic gardens are important for education
  2. the benefits of how botanic gardens can and are currently working together for education
  3. that every botanic garden must develop an education programme
  4. that every botanic garden must make strenuous efforts to appoint at least one full-time education officer.

The participants suggested that this statement could be used by botanic gardens in conjunction with their own strategy to obtain support and financial resources inside and outside the garden.

Furthermore, they believed that all staff within the garden should be involved in its educational work. This can be achieved by:

  • acknowledging that education work needs to be given higher institutional priority and valued as much as, for example, the research work in the botanic garden.
  • education officers communicating their work with other botanic garden staff through newsletters or presentations
  • senior management ensuring that non-education staff are acknowledged for their work in education
  • inviting input to the education programme from other members of the non-educational garden staff.
  • ensuring that all areas and activities can play a role in its education programme.

The participants suggested that we can share our educational knowledge more effectively through:

  • publications, both for internal and external distribution in individual botanic gardens. Network newsletters and communications such as Roots: the Botanic Gardens Education Newsletter
  • meetings and workshops specifically on the topic of environmental education
  • setting up an international exchange programme for educators
  • exchange of educational materials through networks
  • extending networking beyond the bounds of botanic gardens to include other organizations.

Workshop 4. Botanic gardens in Latin America: what is their future role?

With the necessity of strengthening botanic gardens in Latin America to make them more efficient in accomplishing their work in conservation, the workshop participants identified the common problems in the region and evaluated the importance and possibility of finding a solution to them.

In order of priority, these problems were identified as follows:

  • lack of knowledge on the part of botanic garden directors about the aims of BGCI and the importance of botanic gardens
  • inadequate botanic garden representation at national conservation conferences and other fora
  • lack of up-to-date botanic garden planning and organization
  • lack of communication between gardens
  • insufficient education and environmental awareness programmes
  • incomplete records and plant inventories
  • lack of recognition by political authorities and private businesses of the importance of botanic gardens
  • lack of coordination at national level and insufficient development of botanic garden networks
  • lack of initiatives to generate resources for botanic garden development
  • lack of legislation to create and run botanic gardens
  • shortage of living collections
  • lack of opportunities for personnel training
  • lack of botanic garden integration with organizations and programmes involved in in situ conservation
  • lack of funds
  • scarce and dislocated conservation efforts
  • lack of academic recognition
  • the use of different methods of record keeping in different institutions
  • lack of groundwork activities
  • the shortage of botanic gardens in particular areas containing ecosystems of high priority for conservation
  • lack of a specialised bibliography
  • lack of infrastructures with regard to education and awareness
  • poor marketing development and expertise
  • insufficient personnel
  • poor security of tenure for botanic garden sites including tenancy problems (land invasions and reclamations)
  • lack of administrative continuity

The participants recommended the following high priority tasks for botanic gardens in Latin America:

  1. Promote and strengthen national and international botanic garden networks
  2. Achieve the effort required for botanic gardens to constitute scientific authorities for CITES in each country
  3. Organize and promote courses for the training of personnel in botanic gardens
  4. Stimulate co-operation and active integration between botanic gardens and other institutions in charge of the management of natural resources in each country
  5. Develop education strategies suited to the reality of each institution and their environment
  6. Work for the creation of new botanic gardens in areas containing important ecosystems and floras where there are presently no gardens
  7. Increase the conservation collections of living plants in botanic gardens
  8. Promote the creation of databases with compatible formats in order to speed up the exchange of information between institutions
  9. Put emphasis on the maintenance of administrative stability in botanic gardens
  10. Stress the importance of good management structures for the development and maintenance of botanic gardens
  11. Urge botanic garden staffs and those with responsibility for them to review and revise botanic gardens legal status, role and responsibilities nationally in order to ensure their long-term security and development potential
  12. Encourage botanic gardens to accept their role in conservation, within the framework of the World Conservation Strategy
  13. Develop the expertise and capacity of botanic gardens in the field of public relations to ensure they attract wider support and recognition of their importance by the effective dissemination of information on their programmes

Workshop 5. Botanic gardens and plant trade

  1. The participants agreed that a "code of ethics" be developed for botanic gardens involvement in plant trade, to include both:
         - the trade of plants between botanic gardens and
         - their involvement in commercial trade
  2. In order to assist the development of botanic garden's conservation activities, the participants urged botanic gardens to investigate commercial opportunities partnerships with:
         - business and the commercial sector
         - the local community
  3. They agreed that botanic gardens should play their role in the Biodiversity Convention in relation to trade with other countries.
  4. They noted that the Botanic Gardens Plant Trade Commission should produce a manual to provide botanic gardens with guidelines on legal, ethical practical aspects of plant trade.
  5. They urged BGCI to encourage botanic gardens in many countries to help with trade control in those countries by advising the appropriate authorities on their threatened species.
  6. They suggested that botanic gardens should broaden their education programmes to include, for example, the training of customs officers.
  7. They noted the importance of propagation programmes of priority plants in their countries of origin and urged BGCI to seek to promote the funding of such programmes.
  8. They suggested that the programme of workshops be expanded at future Botanic Gardens Conservation Congresses with goals and draft discussion documents circulated beforehand to delegates to assist discussion.
  9. They asked BGCI encourage more participants at future Congress workshops, to allow fuller discussions.

Workshop 6. Botanic gardens and plant reintroductions

  1. The need for plant reintroductions was agreed by the participants of the workshop. They noted that the expanding and high rates of habitat loss and associated extirpation of populations will demand a variety of conservation activities by botanic gardens and that reintroduction is one strategy available to the plant conservationist.
  2. The participants considered that reintroduction necessitates a multi-disciplinary approach where botanic gardens must collaborate with a variety of authorities. Accordingly they believed that the terminology and protocols in the BGCI/Species Survival Commission document of reintroductions being prepared should adhere to that promoted by the IUCN/SSC Reintroduction Specialist Group and Society for Ecological Restoration.
  3. The workshop agreed that botanic gardens must play a more active role in the planning and implementation of species' rescue programmes and noted that botanic gardens have a unique set of skills and facilities to allow them to play a pivotal role in reintroductions and rescue programmes.
  4. They urged that the role of reintroductions in areas of high plant diversity be assessed and that priority should always be given to in situ or habitat-orientated conservation work. The participants stressed their belief that botanic gardens should not rely on ex situ conservation of plant populations alone but that an integrated approach is necessary.
  5. The participants were aware that the role of introductions to non-native sites will play an increasingly important role in plant conservation. Such conservation or benign introductions will be important as unique habitats continue to be destroyed and in response to anthropogenic change, synthetic populations and communities will need to be made.
  6. Furthermore, they acknowledged that the phytosanitary implications of plant reintroduction need careful consideration. Accidentally introducing pathogens is a serious risk requiring supporting research. Minimum phytosanitary standards need to be established for botanic gardens.
  7. The workshop participants stressed that information supply on plant reintroductions and species recovery programmes needs to be improved and supported the SSC Reintroduction Specialist Group's aims for data collection in this regard. There is also a need to survey existing and past projects to review the causes of success and failure.
  8. The workshop was in agreement that reintroductions should not be viewed as a tampering exercise but instead be promoted as a mechanism for habitat rehabilitation. The role of ecologically viable degraded habitats as receptor sites for reintroductions was proposed. This reduces the potential controversy associated with utilising original and non-degraded habitats. They noted that reintroduction must not be confused with the expanding trend of wildflower seeding prevalent in Europe, North America and Australia.
  9. The participants suggested that the selection of priorities for reintroduction will vary significantly between high diversity and low diversity regions. In addition, they pointed out that the site selection procedure will vary between institutions with purely local responsibilities and those with international responsibilities. They recognized the population as the unit of reintroduction.
  10. They pointed out the need to register, document and monitor projects undertaken and that it is important that what is currently an experimental strategy in plant reintroduction quickly develops to become a scientific discipline.
  11. They urged that the BGCI/RSG guidelines to be quickly published and supported by an annotated bibliography and case studies where appropriate.

Workshop 7. Plant Conservation Methodologies

a) Tissue culture in botanic gardens

In the workshop on tissue culture as a plant conservation methodology, the participants agreed that the IUCN Species Survival Commission be approached to canvas its support for the creation of a Plant In Vitro Specialist Group. The aim of this would be:

  1. to help in the formulation of a directory of laboratories, listing their interests and, if appropriate, their willingness to provide training in in vitro techniques for staff of other institutes;
  2. to promote the exchange of information and technology for practical methods for in vitro conservation.

It was envisaged that a working party needs to be established, one of whose first functions would be the production of a set of guidelines for the development of in vitro culture units, with particular reference to the conservation of endangered plants.

The participants also agreed that in vitro techniques represented a useful tool in the conservation of plant genetic resources and have a part to play in a wide range of species recovery programmes and botanic garden conservation strategies.

b) Ex situ plant conservation for botanic gardens

  1. The participants considered the draft document: Guidelines for the ex situ preservation of germplasm by botanic gardens which had been prepared by a BGCI working group which met in 1989 at Maspalomas Gran Canaria, and in 1991 at Kew. The guidelines were considered of great importance and were accepted by the group with only minor changes.
  2. The workshop agreed that botanic gardens should give priority to the ex situ conservation of wild species especially to:
       - threatened species
       - species which occur in threatened habitats
       - rare species
       - medicinal species
       - ornamentals
       - wild relatives of crop plants
  3. The participants also urged botanic gardens to co-operate at the local, regional, national and international levels, not only to define priorities, but also to develop methodologies for germplasm sampling and preservation techniques. Botanic gardens were encouraged to broaden their co-operation with other research institutions especially with ones from which they might learn, ones with more experienced in ex situ preservation.
  4. The participants suggested that countries should organize meetings through their national botanic garden networks with the aim of discussing ecosystems of high conservation priority. An aim of these meetings would be to highlight individual institutional conservation commitments in terms of ex situ germplasm preservation of the biodiversity these ecosystems contain. The view was endorsed that each botanic garden should become involved with the conservation of at the very least one species or group of related species or genera.

c) In situ plant conservation for botanic gardens

  1. The participants of this workshop agreed that a document presenting guidelines for the involvement of botanic gardens in in situ conservation should be prepared, under the coordination of BGCI.
  2. They suggested that existing documents such as the Convention on Biological Diversity; The Global Biodiversity Strategy and The World Conservation Strategy should serve as reference texts for the preparation of the guidelines.
  3. They considered what should be the priorities of botanic gardens in situ conservation efforts and agreed that:
        -  botanic gardens should keep in mind the four levels of biodiversity: genetic or infraspecific, species, ecosystems or functional, and cultural and while all 
           are important, botanic gardens may play their greatest role with the first two.
        -  botanic gardens should attempt to manage communities and monitor target populations in pilot projects. They agreed that the choice of taxa with which
           to work should be made along with other agencies responsible for the management of protected areas and that particular attention should be devoted to
           endangered and rare plants, those of economic or environmental importance, and particularly species with non-orthodox seeds.
  4. They noted that botanic gardens should give emphasis to work with their regional floras. In addition, they urged botanic gardens to practice in situ conservation projects in natural areas they own or control and to seek opportunities to acquire such sites in the future. Nevertheless, the participants agreed that much emphasis for work should be given to working within already established protected areas, where they would work jointly with the managing agency to monitor and manage pilot genetic reserves.
    They further considered that another option is for botanic gardens to work in areas of private ownership to develop strategies and techniques for in situ conservation outside of the formally established protected areas, specially when such land is under different land-use systems, to help evaluate prospects of the sustainability of their biodiversity.
    They stressed the importance of biogeographic surveys in identifying sites rich in biodiversity or in endemism.
  5. The participants of the workshop considered what type of work and research should be undertaken by botanic gardens in in situ conservation and agreed that the following areas were of the highest priority:
         -  Inventorying, specially using quantitative methods and referenced to GIS.
         -  Population structure, dynamics and genetics and other aspects of conservation biology such as pollination, seed dispersal, plant/soil relations, etc.
         -  Experimental work on stress ecology as this is critical for several plant communities subjected to fire, inundation, grazing, hurricanes, etc.
         -  Taxonomic work, especially if the results are utilized to infer biogeographic patterns, or to provide easy identification keys, or to clarify taxonomic status
            within species complexes, clines or otherwise variable species.
         -  On going monitoring of species or populations
         -  Plant reintroduction. The participants noted that the reintroduction of species into wildlands will require much more detailed knowledge of population
            genetics and conservation biology than presently exists if any degree of success is expected.
  6. The workshop participants considered how to get botanic gardens more involved in in situ conservation and suggested the following:
         -  each botanic garden should be involved in at least one in situ conservation project.
         -  botanic gardens should work in joint projects together with other conservation agencies.
         -  botanic gardens should seek cooperation and collaboration with research groups with more experienced in conservation biology.

The participants pointed out that the prospects of in situ conservation projects obtaining financial support was dependant on having well planned and balanced projects that combine both basic research with a multidisciplinary approach together with the practical aspects of actual management activities.