Integrated Plant Conservation

In situ is Latin for “on site”, in situ conservation is therefore the conservation of species diversity within normal and natural habitats and ecosystems. By comparison, ex situ conservation focuses on safeguarding species by keeping them in places such as seed banks or living collections. Because our natural systems face many threats, conserving them is not easy, and must use many techniques.

This includes the development, designation, and management of protected areas, tackling alien invasives, ecological restoration, and working with communities to promote sustainable plant use and land management. It is therefore important that ex situ and in situ conservation are designed and practiced to reinforce and complement each other. This combined approach is known as ‘integrated plant conservation’. Integrated plant conservation can be supported by research, horticulture and education that can ultimately increase the success of conservation efforts.

Integrated plant conservation combines in situ and ex situ conservation approaches to support species survival. In situ conservation protects species in their native habitat, while ex situ conservation ensures plant material is available for research, horticulture, and education activities that ultimately support reintroduction efforts, to prevent species from going extinct. Guerrant, E.O., K. Havens-Young, M. Maunder. 2004. Ex situ plant conservation: Supporting species survival in the wild. Island Press.

Botanic gardens are exceptionally well placed to make an important contribution to integrated plant conservation, as they have access to the skills and techniques to identify, cultivate and propagate a huge variety of plant species. In addition, they hold important collections of living plants, seeds and other germplasm that can be of great value in supporting both in situ and ex situ conservation efforts.

For example, the collections of botanic gardens can provide a source of material for habitat restoration. The Ecological Restoration Alliance of Botanic Gardens is an excellent example of botanic gardens who are working together to restore degraded and damaged ecosystems.