Kew Scientist - October 1994: Issue 6
October 1994: Issue 6


Welcome to the first edition of Kew Scientist to be made available on the Internet. If you have any comments or suggestions, please email them to Dr Geoff Kite.
Features in this issue:


Director's Message: Conserving Biodiversity

Biodiversity is a word that has permeated Kew and has also become well known by many lay people because of the 1992 'Earth Summit' in Rio de Janeiro. At Kew we have been involved in the issues of the protection of biodiversity long before the term was coined by Walter G. Rosen in 1985 for a National Forum on Biodiversity held in Washington in September 1986. Deputy Director for Science, Dr Charles Stirton, who represented Kew at the Rio meeting, has just returned from a follow-up meeting in Mexico, where he was part of the UK delegation at the scientific and advisory meeting on the Biodiversity Convention. In addition to this important political work at meetings, we are involved in promoting the conservation of biodiversity in many other ways.

Within the last two years, the LCD Conservation Unit and botanists in the Herbarium and the Jodrell Laboratory have been involved in developing action plans and recovery programmes for threatened species in several different countries. We have helped the Turkish authorities with a Global Environmental Facility (GEF) project on the in situ conservation of crop relations, with species recovery and habitat restoration of St Helena, and with the National Parks and Conservation Service of Mauritius, to name but a few of our involvements. Herbarium botanists have played a major role in obtaining GEF funds for the national Herbaria in both Kenya and Cameroon, and LCD has advised the Plant Conservation and Propagation Unit of the National Museums of Kenya. These and other activities reported in this issue show that we are extremely active in fulfilling our mission to ensure better management of the Earth's environment by increasing knowledge and understanding of the plant kingdom.

Above: Kew botanists, Brian Stannard and Eimear NicLughadha, making collections.

Because of the threat to biodiversity, the study of which is the very reason for our existence, it is likely that the issues of biodiversity and conservation will play an increasingly important role in our programme at Kew.

Contact Prof. Ghillean T. Prance, Director

Email: Ghillean Prance


Kew & the UK Action Plan

When the Royal Botanic Gardens were founded in 1759, Kew was a quiet country village. Nowadays, Kew lies well within the Greater London conurbation but still provides a sanctuary for wildlife.

The survival of areas of conservation value in urban settings is one of the concerns of the Government report Biodiversity: the UK Action Plan, published in January, which Kew has helped to develop. The 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity required all signatories to produce national biodiversity action plans.

Of particular interest to Kew, the UK Action Plan recommends the development of management plans for all Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs). We are already implementing management plans for both the Queen's Cottage conservation area at Kew and the important Loder Valley Reserve at Wakehurst (designated a SSSL). The number of insects, animals and plants recorded in these protected areas has already increased.

The UK Action Plan encourages increased public awareness of the need to conserve biodiversity. Kew's educational programmes, presentation in the media and exhibitions, and display signing, are all part of Kew's efforts to sell conservation to our visitors and the public at large.

The Species Recovery Programme that is advocated by the Action Plan has formed a major part of Kew's UK conservation work for over a decade. Several endangered British species have been propagated at Kew for re-establishment into the wild. The notable success of the Sainsbury Orchid Project, which has worked closely with the County Naturalists' Trusts and English Nature, has given renewed hope that rarities such as the lady's slipper orchid will survive as a native species. At Wakehurst, the Seed Bank is working within the Programme to collect and conserve seed of species listed in Schedule 8 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act.

Our involvement with the Biological Diversity Convention and the UK Action Plan has brought into stark focus both the interlinking of our conservation activities and the high level of cross- department working which has evolved over the years. Kew's Corporate Strategic Plan now recognizes conservation as one of the major scientific programmes.

Recently, the Conservation Co-ordinating Committee has been established to strengthen and speed the network of Kew's conservation actions, both inside and outside the institute, in the UK and overseas. This network is essential, for none of Kew's conservation programmes would be possible, or indeed desirable, without the partnership of numerous national and international institutions, organisations and scientific colleagues.

Contact Phil Cribb (0181-332-5245)

Email: Phil Cribb

Chairman, Conservation Co-ordinating Committee


Fen Orchid Re-established in UK

The Sainsbury Orchid Conservation Project is working with English Nature on a Species Recovery Programme funded project to save the fen orchid, Liparis loeselii (below). The Norfolk Naturalists Trust and the Broads Authority aim to safeguard and increase the existing populations by appropriate management of sites in addition to re-establishing populations using material produced ex situ. The Sainsbury Orchid Conservation Project has already germinated seeds from the Norfolk sites with a symbiotic fungus in the laboratory and approximately 20 seedlings have been offered for a re-establishment trial in November 1994.

Seedlings of Orchis laxiflora raised symbiotically from Jersey seed will also be available this autumn for a re-introduction programme by the National Trust for Jersey. These projects form part of the UK Action Plan for Biodiversity.

Contact Margaret Ramsay (0181-332 5559)

Email: Margaret Ramsay


New Kew Scientists

DR HEW PRENDERGAST has just taken on the newly-established post of Leader of the Centre for Economic Botany (CEB) which is to be based eventually in the Sir Joseph Banks Building. Included under CEB's umbrella are the Survey of Economic Plants for Arid and Semi-Arid Lands, Plantas do Nordeste (Kew's joint initiative with local authorities in north-east Brazil), the Economic Botany Bibliography Database, Kew's unique collection of 75,000 botanical artefacts, and an enquiry unit on useful and poisonous plants. Hew was previously the first full-time seed collector for the Seed Bank at Wakehurst Place, working in mainly arid and semi-arid countries from Morocco to Namibia and Australia.

The appointments of Drs Renée Grayer and Nigel Veitch to the Biological Interactions Section (Jodrell) will strengthen Kew's work in chemical systematics. Renée will be working on the chemical systematics of the Labiatae using Kew's living collections. Nigel will provide the expertise required to identify the chemicals discovered in this and other projects.


Kew Scientist

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, Surrey TW9 3AB.

Tel: 0181 332 5000 Fax: 0181 332 5310

Email Editor: Prof. Mike Bennett

Email Production Editor: Dr Geoff Kite

Editorial Advisory Team:

Herbarium: Dr P. Cribb, D. Field, Dr G. Lewis, E. Cowley, N. McGough, Dr N. Hind

Jodrell Laboratory: Prof M. Bennett, Dr P. Rudall, Dr M. Chase, Dr G. Kite, Dr R. Probert

Living Collections: M. Maunder, Dr M. Fay, A. Jackson, M. Sinnott


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