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Kew's work proves ever more vital

Christina Harrison
7 October 2010
Blog team: 
It was all over the news in the past week: one in five plant species is at risk of extinction, and the main cause is habitat loss caused by our activities.

Initially this is very depressing news, but when you begin to investigate how much work Kew staff are doing to research and conserve these species with partners around the world, there is more than a glimmer of hope.

We'll be carrying more on this story in the next issue of Kew magazine but do read as much as you can about this news now and do get involved – Kew needs everyone's support if it is to halt this decline and the risk to plant species. You can even sign up with BGCI's Plants for the Planet campaign, which they'll be taking to Conference of Parties meeting in Nagoya later this month.

We've been investigating the work of Kew's Herbarium staff for the next issue to mark both this news and the opening of the new wing of the Herbarium. This represents an enormous milestone in its history and is also great news for the future of plant science here. It's amazing to think that as the new wing is about to open 20,000 boxes of specimens are being moved into the state-of-the-art, climate-controlled new rooms. They will take up 6km worth of shelving and represent around 45,000 different species of plants! I've charged our writers and journalists to investigate just why this new wing was needed, what treasures it holds, what new species it will soon be home to; also where in the world Kew's botanists get to in their search for knowledge of plants, and how they share it with others. We'll be starting the issue with an interview with the Keeper of the Herbarium, Professor David Mabberley. 

Getting the in-depth story

Trying to decide what goes into an issue four to five months ahead of its publication date and attempt to keep that information current sometimes seems an uphill struggle, especially when, in this media-soaked world of fast-paced technology, sources such as the web can publish stories within minutes of a press release! But there is plenty of scope for us to investigate stories in-depth and bring you some fabulous images that can be kept for a much longer period than a webpage: many of our readers tell us they keep every issue, which is such a wonderful thing to hear.

Although we have covered aspects of the work of Herbarium staff in previous issues we knew that this winter we had to bring some special articles about their work and the future of the Herbarium at Kew. It's when you put an issue like this together you realise just how wide-ranging their work is – and this is just one department of Kew! From restoring and surveying habitats in the UK Overseas Territories to a 61-year project mapping the flora of tropical East Africa, to caring for some of the most valuable books in the world, we have tried to put together a flavour of the expertise and work that goes on in this building.

- Christina-

The autumn issue of Kew magazine is out now, the winter issue will be out on 1 December – watch this space.

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