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Global Strategy for Plant Conservation Supported by Biodiversity Convention’s Scientific and Technical Advisory Body (SBSTTA)

Volume 3 Number 7 - December 2001
Peter S. Wyse Jackson

In the last issue of BGCNews (3(6):15-17, June 2001) we reported on progress being made towards the establishment of a Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (GSPC) through the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). This initiative resulted from a resolution of the XVI International Botanical Congress (St Louis, 1999) and the Gran Canaria Declaration published in May 2000, calling for the development of a Global Strategy for Plant Conservation. Following a series of consultations convened by the Executive Secretary of the CBD, a first draft Strategy (UNEP/CBD/SBSTTA/7/10) was prepared in September for review by the Convention’s Subsidiary Body for Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA) at its 7th meeting held in Montreal, Canada in November 2001. This paper outlined the background to the proposed Strategy including its origins and the consultations that had been held to help elaborate the initiative. It also reviewed a series of international initiatives that could contribute to the achievement of such a Strategy, such as for botanic gardens, the International Agenda for Botanic Gardens in Conservation. It also proposed a series of objectives for the Strategy, as follows:

Objectives of the GSPC

The ultimate and long-term objective of the strategy is to halt the current and continuing loss of plant diversity.
The strategy will provide a framework to facilitate harmony between existing initiatives aimed at plant conservation, to identify gaps where new initiatives are required, and to promote mobilization of the necessary resources.

The strategy will also provide a pilot exercise under the Convention for the setting of targets that relate to ultimate objectives of the Convention.

Within the ultimate and long-term objective, a number of sub-objectives can be identified as follows:

(a)  Understanding and documenting plant diversity:

(i) Document the plant diversity of the world, including its use and its distribution in the wild, in protected areas and in ex situ collections;
(ii)  Monitor the status and trends in global plant diversity and its conservation, and identify plant species at risk;
(iii) Develop an integrated, distributed, interactive information system to manage and make accessible information on plant diversity;
(iv) Promote research on the genetic diversity, ecology and conservation biology of plants, and on social, cultural and economic factors that impact biodiversity, so tht plant diversity, both in the wild and in the context of human activities, can be well understood and utilized to support conservation action;

(b) Conserving plant diversity:

Improve long-term conservation, management and restoration of plant diversity in situ (both in more natural and in more managed environments), and ex situ, paying special attention to the conservation of the world’s important areas of plant diversity, and to the conservation of plant species of direct importance to human societies;

(c)  Using plant diversity sustainably:

(i)  Strengthen measures to control unsustainable utilization of plant resources;
(ii) Support the development of livelihoods based on sustainable use of plants, and promote the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the use of plant diversity;

(d) Promoting education and awareness about plant diversity:

Articulate and emphasize the importance of plant diversity, the goods and services that it provides, and the need for its conservation and sustainable use, in order to mobilize necessary popular and political support for its conservation and sustainable use;

(e) Building capacity for the conservation of plant diversity:

(i)  Enhance the human resources, physical and technological infrastructure necessary, and necessary financial support for plant conservation.
(ii) Link and integrate actors to maximise action and potential synergies in support of plant conservation.

The proposal stresses that the GSPC is not proposed as a new programme of work but would seek to promote harmony and coordination between existing CBD activities and the programmes in plant conservation being undertaken by a wide variety of bodies at national, regional and international levels.

The proposal contained a series of 14 draft targets for inclusion in the Strategy to be achieved by 2010. The inclusion of such outcome-orientated targets would b a first for the CBD, and as such the Strategy is seen by many as a valuable pilot exercise towards the evaluation and eventual wider adoption of targets in other areas of the CBD’s work.

The issue of targets in many aspects of the work of the Convention was discussed quite considerably during SBSTTA and is regarded as a somewhat controversial area, with some parties to the Convention fearing that targets will be used to measure their compliance with CBD’s measures. A paper on the needs for targets in the Convention was prepared by the author of this article, which was delivered as a plenary address during the first day of the SBSTTA meeting (a copy of the text of this paper is available on request from BGCI).

At SBSTTA the draft Strategy was debated comprehensively both during the working sessions of the conference as well as in the corridors. Many changes and improvements were made and the result was a Recommendation (titled VII/8 Global Strategy for Plant Conservation - see Box 1) which was accepted on the final day of the meeting on Friday 16th November. The targets were revised to include an additional two more (Box 2).

The recommendation from SBSTTA recognised that further work on the Strategy is necessary in the meantime and work involving both national CBD authorities and the Gran Canaria Group (which prepared the Gran Canaria Declaration) will continue during the coming months to refine the targets and the basis on which they have been developed.


SBSTTA Recommendation VII/8 on a Global Strategy for Plant Conservation

The Subsidiary Body for Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice,

Recalling its decision V/10 (of the 6th Conference of the Parties of the CBD – Nairobi, 2000),
Noting the call from the XVIth International Botanical Congress, in August 1999, for plant conservation to be recognized as an outstanding global priority in biodiversity conservation,
Further noting that the Gran Canaria Declaration of April 2000 called for the development of a Global Strategy for Plant Conservation, within the framework of the Convention on Biological Diversity, and the support for such a strategy by the second IUCN World Conservation Congress, in September 2000,
Recognizing ongoing international initiatives that contribute to plant conservation, such as the FAO Global Plan of Action for Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, and the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, the Strategic Plan and work of the Plants Committee of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the UNESCO Man and Biosphere (MAB) programme, the International Agenda for Botanical Gardens in Conservation, the IUCN Species Survival Commission's Plant Conservation Programme, the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC), the Global Invasive Species Programme (GISP), activities of the International Association of Botanic Gardens; and the WWF/UNESCO people and plants initiative,
Recognizing also that the thematic and cross-cutting programmes of work of the Convention contain elements aimed at plant conservation,
Noting the importance of national actions, in accordance with national priorities, to the achievement of plant conservation, and the urgent need to strengthen national capacities,

Recognizing regional initiatives such as the European Plant Conservation Strategy developed by the Council of Europe and Planta Europa as valuable contributions to global plant conservation,

1.  Recommends that the Conference of the Parties, at its sixth meeting:

(a) Consider for adoption a global strategy for plant conservation, which should include outcome-oriented global targets for 2010, developed on the basis of the proposals in Annex 1 and taking into account the results of the inter-sessional work described in paragraph 2, 3 and 4;
(b) Invite relevant international organizations to adopt these targets, in order to promote a common effort towards halting the loss of plant diversity;
(c) Note that the targets provide a flexible framework within which national and/or regional targets may be developed, according to national priorities and capacities taking into account differences in plant diversity between countries;
(d) Invite Parties and Governments to develop national and/or regional targets, and, as appropriate, to incorporate them into relevant plans, programmes and initiatives, including national biodiversity strategies and action plans;
(e) Emphasize the need for capacity building, particularly in developing countries, small island states, and countries with economies in transition, in order to enable them to implement the strategy;
(f)  Consider the need to ensure financial support, for country driven activities and capacity building for the implementation of the strategy;
(g) Review, at its eighth and tenth meetings, the progress made in reaching the global targets, and provide additional guidance in light of those reviews;
(h) Consider the global strategy for plant conservation as a pilot approach for the use of outcome targets under the Convention within the context of the Strategic Plan and, also consider the wider application of this approach to other areas under the Convention, including other taxonomic groups;
(i)  Request the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice:
To take the targets into consideration in its periodic reviews of the thematic and cross-cutting programmes of work of the Convention;
To develop ways and means, within the Convention’s thematic and cross-cutting programmes of work, for promoting implementation of the global strategy for plant conservation, and for monitoring and assessing progress; and to report to the Conference of the Parties at its seventh meeting;
(j)  Welcome the contribution of the “Gran Canaria Group” in developing this strategy, and invite the organizations involved, and other relevant organizations, in collaboration with the Executive Secretary, to contribute to the further development, implementation and monitoring of the strategy.

[Inter-sessional work]:

In preparation for consideration of the draft strategy by the Conference of the Parties at its sixth meeting,

2. Requests the Executive Secretary, with the support of technical experts, in consultation with participants of the ongoing international initiatives referred to in the fourth preambular paragraph above and on the basis of advice from Parties, to refine the quantitative elements of the targets in the draft strategy providing a scientific and technical rationale in each case, and clarifying terms as necessary;
3. Requests the Executive Secretary to prepare an analysis of the opportunities for implementation of the strategy through the thematic and cross-cutting programmes of work of the Convention, including in particular the Ecosystem Approach and the Global Taxonomy Initiative, as well as through existing relevant international, regional and national initiatives, and of any gaps in these programmes and initiatives;
4. Invites Parties, Governments and relevant organizations to provide information to the Executive Secretary on relevant international, regional and national initiatives.

Following SBSTTA, the recommendation and draft Strategy will be considered for adoption at the next meeting of the Conference of the Parties of the Convention, due to be held in the Hague, The Netherlands in April, 2002. An update on the results of that meeting will be included in the next issue of BGCNews and readers may also review papers for the COP in advance when they are posted on the CBD’s website at


Draft Targets included in the proposed Global Strategy for Plant Conservation

2. Proposed global targets for the year 2010 are as follows:

(a) Understanding and documenting plant diversity:
(i) A widely accessible working list of known plant species, as a step towards a complete world flora;
(ii) An assessment of the conservation status of [all] known plant species, at international, regional and national levels;
(iii) An understanding of basic conservation needs for threatened plant species and plant communities, with conservation protocols and/or techniques to assess and protect plant communities developed as necessary;
(b)   Conserving plant diversity:
(iv) [10 per cent] of each of the world’s ecological regions effectively conserved;
(v) Protection of [70 per cent] of the world’s most important areas for plant diversity assured;
(vi) At least [30 per cent] of production lands managed consistent with the conservation of plant diversity;
(vii) [50 per cent] of the world’s threatened species effectively conserved in situ;
(viii) [90 per cent] of threatened plant species in accessible ex situ collections, preferably in the country of origin, and [20 per cent] of them included in recovery and restoration programmes;
(ix) [70 per cent] of the genetic diversity of crops and other major socio-economically valuable plant species conserved, and associated local and indigenous knowledge maintained;
(x) Management plans in place for [90 per cent] of major alien species that threaten plants, plant communities and associated habitats and ecosystems;
(c) Using plant diversity sustainably:
(xi) No species of wild flora subject to unsustainable exploitation because of international trade;
(xii) [30 per cent] of plant-based products derived from sources that are sustainably managed;
(xiii) The decline of plant resources, and associated local and indigenous knowledge, that support sustainable livelihoods, local food security and health care, reversed;
(d)  Promoting education and awareness about plant diversity:
(xiv) The importance of plant diversity and the need for its conservation incorporated into educational programmes;
(e)  Building capacity for the conservation of plant diversity:
(xv) The number of trained people working with adequate facilities in plant conservation and related activities [doubled]/[increased], according to national needs;
(xvi) Networks for plant conservation activities established or strengthened at international, regional, and national levels.

These targets provide a framework for policy formulation and a basis for monitoring. National targets developed within this framework may vary from country to country, according to national priorities and capacities taking into account differences in plant diversity. Text given in brackets indicates areas where further work and discussions are necessary to agree the details to be included in such targets.

The Global Strategy for Plant Conservation
The GSPC is a plan to save the world's plant species. Botanic gardens are making a major contribution worldwide. Click the image to find out more.