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Report of the 13th Conference of International Association of Botanic Gardens

20 December 2012

Exchange and Collaboration: The Roles of Botanical Gardens in Plant Sciences and Ecology: Brief Introduction to the 13th Conference of International Association of Botanic Gardens

The 13th Conference of International Association of Botanic Gardens (IABG, formed in Paris in 1954, a scientific member of International Union of Biological Sciences) was held in Guangzhou, China from November 13th to 15th, 2012. The main theme of the conference is exchange and collaboration: the roles of botanical gardens in plant sciences and ecology. Over 300 delegates from more than 30 countries attended the meeting. It was cosponsored by National Natural Science Foundation of China, State Forestry Administration, Guangdong Provincial Association for Science and Technology, Guangzhou Association for Science and Technology, and Guangdong Society of Botany.

The scientific program includes plenary speeches, symposia, workshops and posters. Roles of BGs in plant resource conservation and utilization, scientific research and public education are all presented in these inspiring seminars, which showed the trends of activities in BGs worldwide.

Seven invited speakers are from BGs in Asia, Europe and the United States. The topics of their talks are: Botanic Gardens on the World Stage (by professor Stephen Blackmore CBE FRSE); Ex situ Cultivated Flora of China (by professor Hongwen Huang); Botanic Gardens in the Society—IABG: Its Present and Future (by professor Kunio Iwatsuki), The Challenges for Botanic Gardens in a World with Moving Goalposts (by professor Vernon H. Heywood), Botanical Gardens: Society and Change (by professor Thomas S. Elias), Methodological advances in the Historical Gardens Restoration: experiences on the Hispano-Arabic Middle Age Gardens (by professor Esteban Hernandez Bermejo), Beyond the Garden Wall: An Ecological Restoration Alliance of Botanic Gardens (by professor Bruce M. Pavlik).

Thirteen symposia and workshops were held and they were entitled: Botanical gardens’ role in overcoming nature deficit disorder in this rapid urbanizing world; Roles of arboreta and botanical gardens to foster conservation of rare trees of China; The ecological and environmental protection in Guangzhou; Degraded forest ecosystem restoration with consideration of wild plant resource conservation; Epimedium: from natural resources to final products; Bamboo diversity and conservation; Comprehensive utilization of the characteristic plant resources; Newly emerged plant reintroduction guidelines – taking climate change into consideration/Plant reintroduction in Asia – case studies; Breeding and development of horticulture plants; Role of botanical gardens in addressing social and environment challenges of 21st century; Public education of botany and environment; Conservation and sustainable utilization; Botanical garden based research.

In the conference, many hot issues on the development of BGs were discussed. First, BGs should strengthen their four-in-one roles in plant resource conservation, scientific research, public education and plant utilization. BGs should also play more active roles in lifelong education, government scientific decision-making and social and economic development. And even on the world stage, we should create a voice of BGs. Second, the essence of a BG is its living plant collections. However, it is not the number of taxa cultivated that is important but the nature, quality, documentation and management of the accessions to promote economic development and addressing global climate change. Third, BGs should play a leading and exemplary role in plant conservation by national and regional implementation of Global Strategy on Plant Conservation (GSPC) and their strategy on plant conservation. Fourth, taking advantages of BGs’ plant resources, knowledge and human resources, some BGs have already started to work on ecological restoration. However, it should be really strengthened. Currently, the Ecological Restoration Alliance, launched at the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, UK, is welcoming any BG in the world to join in. Fifth, we should explore the roles of BGs in overcoming nature deficit disorder, addressing social, economic and environment challenges in this rapid urbanizing world. Sixth, we need to work out how to make innovation on scientific collections of living plants, taxonomy of plants, documentation and exchange of living plants and specimens, exchange of cultivation information, habitat conservation and restoration, horticulture etc. Finally, the aims and objectives of each BG will be a little different due to different economic, cultural, natural conditions, and especially the richness of biodiversity, but all BGs should move forward rapidly toward the common aims and objectives.

During the conference, participants took a field trip to Dinghushan National Nature Reserve, the first Nature Reserve of China. Additionally, the new IABG Board was announced. Professor Vernon Heywood, the world famous botanist from UK, was elected as the new president. Professor Hongwen Huang, director of South China Botanical Garden, was elected as the general secretary. And the locality of Secretariat became in South China Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Guangzhou, China.

 

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