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Botanical Garden named National Focal Point for Plant Conservation

3 August 2006
Canada's botanic garden named as a national focal point

 The announcement is the "culmination
of 12 years work" for the team.

From left to right: Dr. David Galbraith,
Executive Director of the Canadian Botanical
Conservation Network, Krista Blackborow,
Program Officer for the Biodiversity Convention
Office of Environment Canada, Stella Simiyu
of BGCI and the Secretariat of the Convention
on Biological Diversity, and Dr. John Karau,
Director of the Biodiversity Convention
Office of Environment Canada
Image © BGCI

In a first for a non-governmental organization in Canada, Royal Botanical Gardens has been named Canada’s “National Focal Point” for plant conservation targets under the United Nations’ Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The announcement was made at Royal Botanical Gardens yesterday by John Karau, Director of the Biodiversity Convention Office of Environment Canada.
A National Focal Point is a key part of implementing a global treaty like the CBD, said Dr. David Galbraith, Head of Scientific Development and Interim Head of Conservation at Royal Botanical Gardens. The National Focal Point will collect and share information, raise awareness and report on progress concerning the CBD’s Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (GSPC) through communicating with federal and provincial government agencies, botanical gardens, arboreta, universities, museums, and other non-governmental organizations.
Dr. Galbraith, who also is the Executive Director of the Canadian Botanical Conservation Network and project leader, said, “This is a great vote of confidence in [Royal Botanical Gardens] and in CBCN. This is the first time that any Government of Canada department has trusted an organization outside of the government itself to handle the communications and report-generating function of a National Focal Point.”
In his remarks, Mr. Karau suggested that the move was the best that could possibly occur. “David Galbraith and Royal Botanical Gardens have played a leadership role in networking with Canadian botanical gardens and arboreta to work collectively towards the conservation of biodiversity,” he said.
The initial agreement with Environment Canada runs until March 2007. At that time both Royal Botanical Gardens and the government will assess the progress and decide if the relationship should be continued. “In other words, this is really a pilot project,” said Dr. Galbraith.
Mr. Karau anticipated that the relationship will be a good one. “Given Dr. Galbraith’s breadth of knowledge about the value of biodiversity and the role that botanical gardens can play in conserving plant diversity, we are pleased to be entering into this agreement,” he said. “[It] is the first non-government focal point designation. We’ve put this role in the hands of the experts that know it well and we look forward to continued collaboration.”
The Convention on Biological Diversity was signed by 150 countries, including Canada, at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992. Along with other parties to the CBD, Canada adopted the Convention’s Global Strategy for Plant Conservation in 2002. The Strategy’s main objective is “to halt the current and continuing loss of plant diversity.” It set out 16 targets or “outcomes” to be achieved by 2010, that are grouped into five major categories: understanding and documenting plant diversity, conserving plant diversity, using plant diversity sustainably, promoting education and awareness about plant diversity, and building capacity for the conservation of plant diversity.
Dr. Galbraith stated that the designation of Royal Botanical Gardens and CBCN as the National Focal Point “is the culmination of 12 years of work by Royal Botanical Gardens, initiated by past Royal Botanical Gardens Board member Dr. Bradley N. White, who was also chair of the Biology Department at McMaster University. In 1994 he had the vision to involve Royal Botanical Gardens and our sister botanical gardens across Canada in national and international efforts to conserve nature, make use of it in sustainable ways, and ensure fairness in sharing benefits from that use. That effort became the Canadian Botanical Conservation Network, a program Royal Botanical Gardens still leads.”

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