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European Botanic Gardens and the International Agenda for Botanic Gardens in Conservation

Volume 3 Number 1 - January 2006

Suzanne Sharrock

A large number of biodiversity-related strategies and agendas operate at international, regional and national level within the European Union.  European botanic gardens therefore have to define their role and relevance in relation to plant conservation in the context of a complicated policy framework.  In response to international biodiversity strategies and actions plans, botanic garden networks in some regions are in the process of developing region-specific botanic garden targets – as for example the North American strategy reported in this volume.

European botanic gardens however, in the face of a plethora of regional and international strategies, have decided not to attempt to develop further EU-specific botanic garden targets, but instead are reviewing the actions that are already underway in botanic gardens which are outlined in the International Agenda for Botanic Gardens in Conservation, and through this, contribute to the achievement of global, regional and national plant conservation targets. 

This paper provides some preliminary results of this review process, and demonstrates that European botanic gardens are contributing in many and varied ways to biodiversity conservation in Europe through the implementation of the International Agenda. 

International Targets

The International Agenda was published in 2002, providing a global framework for the actions of botanic gardens in relation to the conservation and sustainable use of plant resources.  In 2002, the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (GSPC) was adopted by the 187 Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), including a set of 16 outcome-oriented targets for plant conservation to be achieved by 2010. 

Following the adoption of the GSPC, botanic gardens began to examine how actions already being carried out in the framework of the International Agenda, actually contributed to the achievement of the targets of the GSPC.  At the World Botanic Gardens Congress in Barcelona in 2004, a set of targets for botanic gardens, to be achieved by 2010 were developed in order to explicitly link the actions recommended in the International Agenda with the targets of the GSPC (Wyse Jackson, 2004).  Following a period of consultation, these targets were agreed by the world botanic garden community (2010 Targets for botanic gardens). 

The targets provide a mechanism to monitor the achievement of the policies and practices of the International Agenda and to quantify the contribution of botanic gardens to the targets of the GSPC. The international botanic gardens targets also provide the basis for the development of regional and national botanic gardens targets – as for example in the North American region and the U.K. (Jebb, 2005).

European Biodiversity Targets

In 2000, botanic gardens in Europe adopted the Action Plan for Botanic Gardens in the European Union (Cheney et al., 2000). This sets out more than 30 objectives on science and horticulture, conservation of biodiversity, education, training and awareness, networking, co-operation and capacity building.  Similar to the International Agenda, the Action Plan does not include specific outcome-oriented targets, but rather provides a framework for action to achieve such targets.

With the development of the GSPC and a focus on plants across the conservation community, Planta Europa (a network of organisations working for plant conservation in Europe), together with the Council of Europe (an inter-governmental organisation) developed the European Plant Conservation Strategy (EPCS).  In 2002, the EPCS was recognised by the Convention on Biological Diversity as a contribution to the GSPC with the 42 targets of the EPCS being arranged under five objectives, corresponding to the five objectives of the GSPC.

Within Europe, the EPCS is also seen as contributing to the Pan European Biological and Landscape Diversity Strategy (PEBLS) (ECNC, 2001). Within the framework of this strategy, in 2001 the European Union set a target to “halt the decline of biodiversity by 2010”. Following the setting of this headline target, the European Commission undertook a year-long consultation process on its biodiversity strategy and the identification of priorities towards meeting the 2010 commitments. This process was finalised at a conference in Malahide, Ireland in 2004 where a number of priority objectives were identified, with specific targets for each objective to ensure clarity of what has to be achieved by 2010.  These targets are outlined in the ‘Message from Malahide’.  The European research community was engaged in this process through the European Platform for Biodiversity Research Strategy (EPBRS) and in particular through a meeting held in Killarney in May 2004 (EU presidency 2004 Website, 2004).  The Killarney meeting also adopted a declaration and recommendations on biodiversity research which were subsequently endorsed at Malahide.

Strategies and Action Plans Relevant to European Botanic Gardens

European Botanic Gardens and Plant Conservation Targets

In 2004-5, European botanic gardens, in the framework of the European Botanic Gardens Consortium, initiated a process of understanding and recording in a meaningful way, their contribution to the achievement of European, as well as global biodiversity targets.  As a starting point, the wide range of biodiversity targets were analysed, those relevant to the work of botanic gardens identified. It became clear that all relevant targets could be grouped under the targets of the GSPC and in this way a matrix was developed, including the GSPC, international botanic garden, EPCS, Malahide and Killarney Declaration targets.  Within this matrix, European botanic gardens are now starting to identify specific actions, on-going or planned, which will contribute to the achievement of European and international plant conservation targets.  

Even at this early stage in the exercise, it is clear the European botanic gardens are contributing to all the GSPC targets. It is also clear that the International Agenda still provides a relevant framework for botanic gardens in conservation, helping to guide and define appropriate actions to help achieve the various plant conservation targets.  Some examples of how European botanic gardens are contributing to GSPC targets are provided in Table 1.

A full report on the contribution of European Botanic Gardens to biodiversity conservation will be prepared and presented at the Fourth European Botanic Gardens Conference in the Czech Republic in September 2006.

Table 1. Examples of botanic gardens’ contributions to GSPC targets and relevant International Agenda activity



(A) Understanding and documenting plant diversity

Int. Agenda activity

(1) A widely accessible working list of known plant species, as a step towards a complete world flora.


The National Botanic Garden of Belgium publishes a regularly updated flora of Belgium. The garden is also databasing nomenclatural type specimens of central Africa and is a partner in Species 2000 project.

2.3 (vii)

(2) A preliminary assessment of the conservation status of all known plant species, at national, regional and international levels.


The botanic garden of the University of Vienna has compiled a list of Austrian plant taxa deserving conservation action as basis for the development of seed collection priorities.

2.3 (v)

(3) Development of models with protocols for plant conservation and sustainable use, based on research and practical experience.


Models, protocols and case studies for priority plants, their ecosystems and cultural landscapes are developed by Portuguese botanic gardens

In vitro conservation protocols are being developed for endangered species in Latvia.

2.7 (v)

(B) Conserving plant diversity



4) At least 10 per cent of each of the world’s ecological regions effectively conserved

Portuguese botanic gardens are contributing to national and regional conservation, through the development of planning and management programmes for different ecological regions.

2.5 (i)

5) Protection of 50 per cent of the most important areas for plant diversity assured

The botanic garden of Siauliai University, Lithuania carried out field research to support the proposal of an Important Plant Area (IPA) for the protection of an alkaline fen habitat.

2.3 (viii)

(6) At least 30 per cent of production lands managed consistent with the conservation of plant diversity.

Botanic gardens in Portugal participate in the development of manuals of good agricultural practices.

2.8.2 (i)

(7) 60 per cent of the world’s threatened species conserved in situ.


The Balkan Botanic Garden in Greece manages an in situ conservation area of natural oak forest. This includes restricted access and delimitation of microhabitats of different orchid species in the conservation area.

2.5 (5)

(8) 60 per cent of threatened plant species in accessible ex situ collections, preferably in the country of origin, and 10 per cent of them included in recovery and restoration programmes.

Several botanical gardens in Austria have ex situ conservation programmes for rare and endangered Austrian plant species, mostly in an ecosystem context. In addition, there are important collections of non-Austrian plants of high conservation value.

As protocols for the cultivation of most of these taxa exist, and these ex situ collections in most cases are well defined genetically, they are well suited for use in in situ restoration.

2.6 (ii)


2.6 (iv)

(9) 70 per cent of the genetic diversity of crops and other major socio-economically valuable plant species conserved, and associated indigenous and local knowledge maintained.


The National Botanic Garden of Belgium holds a seed bank of wild Phaseolineae recognised as base collection by IPGRI. NBG has extracted ethnobotanical knowledge from the herbarium specimens of Central Africa belonging to two families (Cucurbitaceae, Leguminosae) as a prototype.

2.8.1 (iii)

(10) Management plans in place for at least 100 major alien species that threaten plants, plant communities and associated habitats and ecosystems.

A list of invasive plants species in the Czech Republic has been prepared by Botanic Gardens of the Czech Republic.

2.5 (v)

(C) Using plant diversity sustainably


(11) No species of wild flora endangered by international trade.

The botanic garden Warsaw, Poland organised a special International Conference on CITES use by botanical gardens and has edited 3 guide books about CITES. 

2.8.4 (iii)

(12) 30 per cent of plant-based products derived from sources that are sustainably managed.

Portuguese botanic gardens have developed best practices for the conservation and sustainable use of Mentha cervina, Mentha pulegium, Thymbra capitata..

2.8.1 (ii)

(13) The decline of plant resources, and associated indigenous and local knowledge, innovations and practices that support sustainable livelihoods, local food security and health care, halted

By its collaboration with the Kisantu garden (Congo) the National Botanic Garden of Belgium contributes to the production of indigenous plant resources as a basis of food and medicine.

2.8.1 (ii)

 (D) Promoting education and awareness about plant diversity


(14) The importance of plant diversity and the need for its conservation incorporated into communication, educational and public –awareness programmes.

Botanic gardens in Slovenia organise lectures, workshops and numerous other activities for the general public. This also includes guided tours of the gardens in order to present conservation efforts for some of the endemic and threatened plants. Special work sheets on the latter have been prepared for school children.


(E) Building capacity for the conservation of plant diversity


(15) The number of trained people working with appropriate facilities in plant conservation increased, according to national needs, to achieve the targets of this Strategy

Slovenian biology students are trained in practical work and conservation activities in the botanic gardens.

2.9 (iv)

 (16) Networks for plant conservation activities established or strengthened at national, regional and international levels.

The Association of Baltic Botanic Gardens has prepared an overview of threatened and rare species of native vascular plants in ex situ collections of Botanic Gardens of the Association.

2.19.1 (i)




Cheney, J. Navarrete Navarro, J. & Wyse Jackson, P. (comp & eds) 2000.  Action Plan for Botanic Garden in the European Union.  Scripta Botanica BelgicaVol 19. Ministry of SME and Agriculture and National Botanic Garden of Belgium, Meise, Belgium.

CBD, 2002.  European Plant Conservation Strategy (EPCS).  Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity., accessed November, 2005]

ECNC (European Centre for Nature Conservation), 2001. Pan European Biological and Landscape Diversity Strategy.  [, accessed November, 2005

EU presidency 2004 Website, 2004. Message from Malahide.  Halting the decline of biodiversity - priority objectives and targets for 2010.  [, accessed November, 2004].

Jebb, M., 2005. Developing a PlantNetwork response to Target 8 of the GSPC. BGjournal 2(2): 8.
Wyse Jackson, P.S., 2004. Developing international targets for botanic gardens in conservation: a consultation document. BGjournal 1(1): 4-6.