The 1990s and Kew's conservation ethic
Kew's conservation ethic developed as a theme during the period
from 1945 to the present day. 'Conservation' involved both the conservation
of the unique heritage of the site itself and also the conservation
of the world's ecosystems. With the 1988 appointment of Ghillean
Prance as Director the latter was brought to the forefront of Kew's
The growth of the conservation ethic had a major influence behind
the scenes and refocused Kew's mission from serving the needs of
the colonies to serving the needs of the world community.
Although the Gardens had often promoted conservation of plants
and habitats to the colonies, for example through the despatch of
botanists to oversee the preservation of the forests on Mauritius
and the instigation of forest surveys on Cyprus in the late 19th
century; the motives behind these decisions were still essentially
economic and colonial.
With the encouragement of Prance, the focus shifted more strongly
to conservation-led research and economic botany, and Kew is now
one of the world's leading plant species conservation centres.
Kew's role in international species conservation has its roots
in the blossoming of the global plant conservation movement in the
1970s. Through the 1980s and 1990s Kew's relationship with the IUCN
(The World Conservation Union) and its contribution to the IUCN
administered Red Lists grew exceptionally strongly. Kew's position
within this movement is now firmly established. For example, 450
new organisms were listed in the IUCN Red List 2002 update. Of these,
400 were plants and virtually all of them were proposed by the Royal
Botanic Gardens, Kew.
Kew's expanding global conservation role has been supported by
the tripling in size of the Jodrell Laboratory in 1993; continued
expansion of the Herbarium; and the operation of an active international
Kew's conservation work is exemplified by the Millennium Seed Bank
at Wakehurst Place where the aim is to conserve not only seeds from
all native British plants, but also a further 24,000 species of
economic importance from around the globe, to act as a genetic bank
for future generations. It is recognised as being probably the most
ambitious conservation project in the world today.
The construction of new buildings and the conversion of existing
ones continued at Kew throughout the last decades of the 20th century.
Museum No 1 was converted into the Education Centre of the School
of Horticulture in 1990. The tropical Waterlily House was extensively
renovated and restocked. The Mycological Institute was finally acquired
by Kew in 1994 and 70,000 of the Herbarium's mycology specimens
were transferred there.
to: 1945-Today: Modern Kew