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Caribbean Islands Botanic Gardens and Plant Conservation

Volume 3 Number 1 - December 1998
Peter S. Wyse Jackson

Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) completed the final year of a three year project, funded by Cable and Wireless plc, to undertake an initiative in the Caribbean Islands to strengthen the capacity of botanic gardens in that region for plant conservation and environmental education.

The highlights and major achievements of the project have been:

  • the consolidation of an effective and enthusiastic network of Caribbean Island botanic gardens, brought together for the first time through this project;
  • greatly enhanced understanding by botanic gardens in the region of their potential roles in biodiversity conservation, environmental education and sustainable development;
  • new confidence amongst the botanic gardens in the region of their ability to make a greater impact on environmental protection in the future, both individually and collectively;
  • the preparation and distribution of a book Plant Conservation in the Caribbean Islands - the role of botanic gardens;
  • the holding of 3 regional conferences for botanic gardens, in Cayman Islands, Barbados and in Jamaica;
  • the publication of the Action Plan for Caribbean Island Botanic Gardens;
  • the rescue and conservation of highly endangered plant species in Barbados.

Four Major Objectives

  •  Objective 1: To support a resource centre created by BGCI, to develop networking, institutional capacities and plant conservation resources for each of the botanic gardens in the Caribbean Islands.

The Proceedings of the 1st Caribbean Islands Botanic Gardens Conference, Plant Conservation in the Caribbean Islands - the role of botanic gardens, were edited and compiled as a low-cost volume, describing the work, role and situation of botanic gardens in the region.

This volume contains 18 contributed papers from botanic gardens in Barbados, Colombia, Cayman Islands, Cuba, Haiti, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the United States as well as background papers on botanic garden networks and environmental education contributed by BGCI staff.

Reports on three working groups examining priorities for capacity building, biodiversity conservation and environmental education were also published and an article on fund-raising. This was sent, and has been well received, by all those who attended the three Caribbean Island Botanic Garden Workshops, as well as to the Directors of every botanic garden in the region.

BGCI provided a wide range of advisory and other technical services to the botanic gardens of the Caribbean Islands. This included one to one training in computer database to staff of the U.S. Virgin Islands botanic garden and the installation of BGCI computer software which is now being used to document its conservation collections. BGCI also provide education materials to the Dominica Conservation Association and videotapes, for use in the Andromeda Botanic Garden's educational programme. Support and advice was requested and given, to the Government of Jamaica on the restoration and redevelopment of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Hope in Kingston. A comprehensive report on the redevelopment of the St Vincent Botanic Gardens was prepared by Peter Wyse Jackson and sent to the Prime Minister of St Vincent, The Hon. James Mitchell. A broad-based BGCI database on the botanic gardens of the region, including contact addresses, facilities and activities was updated and distributed to each botanic garden as an on-going resource for networking.

  • Objective 2: to hold 3 Strategic Planning Workshops

1st Caribbean Islands Botanic Gardens Workshop — Cayman Islands
This workshop held in 1996, and hosted by the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park, Grand Cayman Island, was the first of a series of three that were to be held in the Caribbean. The workshop was opened by the Minister for Tourism, Aviation and Commerce, the Hon. Thomas C. Jefferson. The participants represented 12 different countries throughout the Caribbean and for many it proved to be the first time that they had met and spoken about the work of their institutions to each other.

This inaugural meeting assessed the roles and needs of the botanic gardens in the region and looked at the capacity and the potential for future botanic garden conservation programmes. Peter Wyse Jackson, Julia Willison and Suzanne Michel represented BGCI and the local organization was represented by Andrew Guthrie of the host garden. Preparatory work began on a Caribbean Islands Action Plan which was to to be completed by the end of the project. A plant species recovery programme, to be undertaken by the Andromeda Botanic Garden, was also initiated with a long-term intention for reintroduction of these endangeded taxa.

2nd Caribbean Islands Botanic Gardens Workshop - Barbados
This workshop was held in Barbados in July, 1997at the Discovery Bay Hotel and was hosted by the Andromeda Botanic Garden, Barbados.

The meeting was organized jointly by BGCI, the Andromeda Botanic Garden, the Barbados National Trust and the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus. There were 30 delegates participating in this valuable and productive meeting.

The meeting:

  • discussed the priorities for the development of botanic gardens in the region - their infrastructures, activities and training needs;
  • enhanced networking between institutions in different countries;
  • considered the roles that botanic gardens can play, especially in environmental education; and
  • continued to develop a region-wide Action Plan for botanic gardens, including a special focus on biodiversity conservation. A first draft of this Action Plan was distributed for consideration during the meeting.

The programme included round table discussions reviewing the draft Caribbean Botanic Gardens Action Plan. A field trip provided participants with an opportunity to visit the Andromeda Botanic Garden and to see their current conservation programmes.

The meeting was opened by the Director of the Barbados National Trust, Penelope Hynam-Roach, Mr Edmund Hinkson, Chairman of the Barbados National Conservation Commission of the Ministry of Environment and by Dr Peter Wyse Jackson of BGCI. The meeting received high profile press coverage in Barbados.

Regional Seminar on Environmental Education

A one day open seminar on botanic gardens and environmental education was also held on this occasion. This included two keynote lectures delivered by Dr Joyce Glasgow of the University of the West Indies, Jamaica and by Edelmira Linares, the then, President of the Association of Latin American and Caribbean Botanic Gardens from Mexico. The education seminar was led by Julia Willison, Head of Education at BGCI. There were also a series of shorter presentations outlining educational activities and experiences from a number of Caribbean botanic gardens and a discussion forum on the educational needs in the region to which botanic gardens could contribute to in the future.

3rd Caribbean Islands Botanic Gardens Workshop — Jamaica

The 3rd and final, Caribbean Botanic Gardens Workshop was held in June of this year, in Jamaica and was attended by 41 participants. Dr Wyse Jackson and Fiona Dennis attended from BGCI. Fifteen institutions and gardens were represented, embracing nationals from 10 different islands of the Caribbean. This workshop was hosted by the Royal Botanic Gardens (Hope), Kingston and held at the Wyndham Hotel, Kingston and marked the occasion of the official launch of the Conservation Action Plan for Botanic Gardens of the Caribbean Islands.

The three-day workshop began with a discussion forum on the conservation priorities for the Caribbean and included conservation and status reports from the Caribbean Botanic Gardens represented. Day 2 of the workshop concentrated on preparing funding proposals and applications and fund raising for botanic gardens, looking at the general principles and practices and a number of case studies. On the final day of the workshop efforts were concentrated on the Caribbean Botanic Garden Network and what it saw the next steps being. It was agreed there should be further meetings of the network and Cuba was nominated as the next host for a 1999 workshop.

The emphasis throughout the workshop, on the mechanics of practical and focused funding applications, was applauded as both timely and highly appropriate to the needs of biodiversity conservation in the region. Participants were able to discuss their own experiences and the challenges that they had faced in identifying funding bodies and in submitting successful applications. The presence of a representatives of the sponsors for the project, Lady Susan Warner, late of Cable and Wireless plc., added a valuable dimension to the discussions. BGCI would like to take this opportunity to thank Lady Warner for her valuable input into this meeting. Priorities for conservation action were identified and provided both a focus and a catalyst for actions in the immediate future.

The meetings and workshops proved most useful in establishing a Caribbean Botanic Gardens Network. This well organised and focused, network of botanic garden and other plant conservation institutions, will now be in a position to both identify priority actions and to seek funding in the immediate future.

Field visits were made to the Botanic Gardens of Castleton Botanic Garden and Royal Botanic Gardens, Hope.

  • Objective 3: To undertake a series of small-scale demonstration projects in biodiversity conservation to provide models for institutions elsewhere in the region.

Andromeda Botanic Garden implemented a model recovery plan for two highly endangered species from Barbados; the Farleyense Fern (Adiantum tenerum var. farleyense), and the Barbados Mastic (Mastichodendron sloaneanum).

Farleyense Fern

Farleyense Fern survives as four individual plants, each one of which has been rescued and brought into cultivation at the Andromeda Garden. Three of these plants were discovered in Barbados and the fourth was cultivated in Florida, originally from Barbados stock. Extensive work has been completed on the taxonomy and history of this plant and a micropropagation programme to produce plantlets of the species for cultivation and reintroduction continues in Barbados. A scientific paper on the plant has been prepared and submitted for publication in an international scientific journal. Following extensive applied research on cultural conditions and media, a protocol for its propagation has been developed. The fern is not known to produce viable spores and micropropagation is the only way to ensure that large number of the species will be available in the future.

Barbados Mastic

Barbados Mastic survives as a single specimen in the wild in Barbados and is therefore critically close to extinction. Seed was gathered from this surviving tree and now over 30 plants have been raised. Each of these specimens has attained a height of about 2 feet, almost sufficient for them to be planted back into the wild in Barbados in a protected location. A suitable site for reintroduction has been located and it is planned that next year the specimens will be transferred there to become the basis of the first protected population of this important native tree.

  • Objective 4 - To prepare and publish a regional Action Plan for Plant Conservation through Caribbean Botanic Gardens.

Caribbean Action Plan

This groundbreaking publication has been collated over the three years of the project from the contribution by the participants in workshops held in Cayman Island and Barbados in 1996 and 1997.

The goals of the Action Plan were to:

  • support the conservation of Caribbean plant biodiversity;
  • provide a region-wide framework and shared rationale and priorities for botanic garden actions in plant conservation;
  • strengthen the capacity of Caribbean botanic gardens to become leading institutions for the conservation of plants;
  • provide guidance for individual botanic gardens in the formulation and implementation of biodiversity conservation programmes and suggest priority actions for such gardens in the conservation and sustainable utilization of native and exotic plant diversity;
  • encourage and assist Caribbean botanic gardens to create regional co-ordination in plant conservation;
  • ensure that Caribbean botanic gardens become major centres to help achieve the goals of the Convention on Biological Diversity;
  • support the development of environmental education programmes for Caribbean botanic gardens which promote environmental awareness, particularly concerning the need for biodiversity conservation, the values of biodiversity and the consequences of its loss;
  • forge links between gardens and sources of funding for conservation.

To achieve these goals, the Action Plan set clearly defined and measurable objectives in biodiversity conservation for Caribbean botanic gardens and produced a set of measures that outlined a path to achieving the objective. The Action Plan also proposes priorities for action. Major input to the draft was provided by the scientific staffs of BGCI and of the Fairchild Garden, Miami, U.S.A.

The Conservation Action Plan for Botanic Gardens of the Caribbean Islands was formally launched by a representative of the Ministry of Agriculture. The participants regarded the Action Plan as a great success, representing the views and experiences of the project participants and the publications contributors.

The Action Plan contains 15 case studies from around the region and detailed discussion on developing and implementing conservation projects. The final chapters look at funding options and the implications of the Convention on Biological Diversity for the Caribbean. It is hoped that the Action Plan will provide invaluable support and guidance in the development of project proposals. It is hoped the Action Plan will provide a model on which similar regional groupings can structure their conservation efforts and through which they can most effectively direct their resources. The Action Plan has been sent to each member of BGCI, free, in the December 1998 mailing. To obtain additional copies of The Conservation Action Plan for Botanic Gardens of the Caribbean Islands, please contact BGCI. You can find out more on the BGCI Publications List.