The role of Mexican botanic gardens in the implementation of the GSPC
Volume 7 Number 2 - July 2010
Teresa Cabrera Cachon
Most of the botanic gardens in Mexico belong to the Mexican Association of Botanic Gardens (Asociación Mexicana de Jardines Botánicos - AMJB) which includes over 40 gardens.
Due to the variations in climate across the country and the differing origins of each of the gardens and their official status, the interests and activities that have been developed by each garden differ according to their capacities and needs.
The AMJB has adopted the GSPC as one of the main topics to be covered during its national meetings, which are held annually. Through this work the Association follows up on the way in which each garden contributes to the each of the GSPC’s objectives.
What has been done so far?
In 2000, the AMJB published the Conservation Strategy for Mexican Botanic Gardens. The main objectives of the strategy are:
To develop an action plan for the conservation of threatened species of Mexican flora and form collections of live plants of these species.
To promote conservation work for species located in each region of the country through in situ and ex situ activities.
To strengthen inter-institutional and multidisciplinary work that will contribute to the development of integrated projects for threatened plants in their natural habitat through sustainability programs.
To promote and support programs of scientific collection of biological material and information on uses of native plants.
To promote the establishment of horticulture courses and/or study programs in universities.
The same document establishes an Action Plan with ten points, among which are the development of a collection of threatened plants, conservation programs at the regional level and the development of relationships between communities and environmental education programs.
The Mexican Strategy for Plant Conservation
In 2007, at the XX National Meeting of AMJB, a Coordinating Committee for the Mexican Strategy for Plant Conservation was officially established, involving government, academia, civil organizations and the AMJB. During this meeting the objectives of the Mexican strategy were presented to the botanic garden community and the importance of their role in its implementation was emphasised.
The mission of the Mexican strategy is to establish directives and actions for the conservation and sustainable use of plant diversity in Mexico, as well as the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits derived from its use, through the development and effective application of administrative, economic and social incentives based on knowledge.
“The Mexican flora includes over 23,000 species, over 10% of the world’s plant diversity”
The strategy has the following specific objectives; these are based on the objectives of the GSPC but adapted to the national situation:
1. Generation, integration and transmission of the knowledge and information necessary for the conservation of plant diversity
2. Conservation of plant diversity in situ and ex situ
3. Restoration and recovery of deteriorated or altered ecosystems
4. Prevention and control of threats to plant diversity
5. Sustainable use of plant diversity
6. Public policy instruments for the implementation of the Mexican Strategy for Plant Conservation
7. Education, awareness raising, institutional coordination, promotion and development of institutional capacities for the conservation of plant diversity
Mexican botanic gardens and the Mexican Strategy for Plant Conservation
Although botanic gardens cannot cover all the objectives of the Mexican Strategy, they do contribute significantly to many of them. In order to assess the situation and the capacity of Mexican botanic gardens, the annual meetings since 2007 have focused on different GSPC objectives as follows:
2007: What are Mexican botanic gardens doing in relation to the GSPC?
During this meeting an analysis was carried out to determine how the work of the botanic gardens relates to the different targets of the GSPC. This allowed the botanic garden staff to identify that the main impacts are in the areas of ex situ conservation, knowledge and documentation of species, and environmental education. The results from this analysis are presented in Figure 1.
2008: Priority species for Mexican botanic gardens:
The discussion of this point allowed a general overview of the current status of the collections in the gardens to be developed and identified the species where more emphasis is being placed. This helped to define information gaps and prioritise areas that need attention.
2009: Cultivating values and commitments for plant conservation:
Environmental education is one of the activities that is taking place in most of the gardens. The analysis of the work carried out in this regard noted differences in target audiences as well as in capacities and needs between gardens. This indicated a need to develop an Environmental Education Strategy for Botanic Gardens to standardize criteria and improve work tools. In 2009 the Commission of Education was formalized and so far two workshops have taken place to develop the strategy.
“The demand for guided visits at the Botanical Garden of the National University of Mexico (UNAM), has increased to the point that we have had to devise new approaches to meet the public's need”.
How are we doing?
Of the five objectives of the GSPC, Mexican botanic gardens contribute mostly to the objectives: I.) Understanding and documenting plant diversity and IV) Promoting education and awareness about plant diversity. To a lesser extent, they contribute to objective II) Conserving plant diversity, in particular regarding Target 8.
Special mention should be made of the activities carried out to conserve the traditional knowledge of indigenous communities. At least 50% of botanic gardens participate in this activity. In an effort to follow international treaties relating to working with local communities and after several discussions, AMJB published the “Oaxaca Declaration: principles on the access to genetic resources and the traditional knowledge of Mexican flora, and the sharing of the benefits derived from them” in 2003. This declaration includes twelve points with ethical principles that must be respected in the fair and equitable distribution of benefits obtained from the use of traditional knowledge and confirms that the communities are the owners of these resources.
Regarding ex situ conservation of species, one of the most important activities being carried out is the promotion of regional and national collections. The botanic garden of the Biology Institute of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) has national collections for the Agavacea and Crassulacea families with the collection for wild cacti currently in progress. The Xochitla Botanic Garden has the collection of aquatic plants of the Valley of Mexico and the Francisco Javier Clavijero Botanic Garden has the national collections of cycads and bamboos.
These collections are germplasm reservoirs that allow for propagation activities, in particularly of threatened species, for future programs of restoration of ecosystems or reintroduction to their original habitats.
Regarding the 981 species included in the Mexican red list (NOM-059-SEMARNAT-2001), that is, plants that are found in a risk category, approximately 50% are found in collections of the gardens and 30% have propagation programs.
Through these actions, Mexican botanic gardens are successfully implementing the Mexican and Global Strategies for Plant Conservation and are contributing to the conservation of plant diversity globally.
Teresa Cabrera Cachón.
Jardín Botánico Dr. Faustino Miranda.
Calzada de los Hombres Ilustres