The Biodiversity Convention and Kew

Kew Conservation Staff

In the recently revised Corporate Strategic Plan (CSP), for the period 1996-2001, Kew's Conservation Programme has been reorganized to reflect relevant articles of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). Coordination of staff towards the achievement of the objectives and performance measures set out in the new CSP is being realized through a Conservation Strategy Management Group (CSMG), which replaces the former Conservation Coordinating Committee.
The CSMG comprises Kew's Director (Prof. Sir Iain Prance), the Keeper of the Herbarium (Prof. Simon Owens), and the Curator of the Living Collections Department (Nigel Taylor) who meet with the leaders of eight cross-departmental Working Groups on a regular basis to review progress and agree future direction. The new CSP has conservation activities organized under five subprogrammes, some of which are broken down into various named and numbered objectives.
The Working Group leaders are currently as follows: Noel McGough (conservation policy, national & international collaboration, international conventions), Mike Sinnott (threatened taxa in the Living Collections, conservation databases /bibliographies), Dr Mike Fay (conservation genetics), Roger Smith (seed conservation), Margaret Ramsay (micropropagation & cryopreservation of plants & fungi), Andrew Jackson (UK Biodiversity Action Plan and local in situ conservation), Mike Maunder (in situ conservation overseas, capacity building) and Dr David DuPuy (biodiversity mapping & monitoring).
Increased emphasis is being given to Kew's role in the interpretation and operation of the CBD, led by Kerry ten Kate; to auditing Kew's Living Collections to identify taxa of conservation importance, which is being actioned by Matt Ford (formerly of the Micropropagation Unit); to conservation genetics (based in the Molecular Systematics Section of the Jodrell Laboratory); and especially towards the conservation of native UK species. Margaret Ramsay has replaced Mike Fay as manager of LCD's Micropropagation Unit.

Nigel Taylor, Chair CSMG

A plate of Hibiscus fragilis by Mark Fothergill from this November's Curtis's Botanical Magazine which is devoted to the Mascarene Islands. Only two trees of H. fragilis survive in the wild on Rodrigues and Kew is screening cultivated stocks to identify material for reintroduction.

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) has now been ratified by 159 countries. Its objectives are the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilisation of genetic resources. These challenge governments worldwide. For institutions such as Kew, the CBD reflects the concerns and aspirations of our partners in the developing world. The new Biodiversity Conventions Officer post will be a catalyst for the institution's response to this challenge.

Flore des Mascareignes

Harvesting seeds of the Round Island bottle palm Hyophorbe lagenicaulis - only five mature trees survive in the wild.

Some of the CBD's challenges of conservation, data repatriation and technology transfer will be met in a new contract, worth ECU 165,000, awarded by the EC's European Development Fund to complete Flore des Mascareignes by 1999. The Flore is a joint project between Kew, the Sugar Industry Research Institute Mauritius and ORSTOM, Paris. The contract will provide support for the Flore's French editor, a Mauritian assistant (to work at Kew and Paris for two years) and two Mascarenes students (to attend Kew's Herbarium and Conservation Techniques courses). Photographs of type specimens of Mauritian plants, held at Kew, will be sent to the Mauritius Herbarium and the completed Flore will be distributed within the islands. The Mascarenes rich endemic flora is highly threatened and the contract also funds the propagation and repatriation of selected endangered species, including Ramosmania heterophylla and Hibiscus fragilis.

Contact: Dr Keith Ferguson (0181-332 5248)

The new European Development Fund contract will parallel and complement the GEF-funded Biodiversity Restoration Project being implemented by the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation in collaboration with the Government of Mauritius, Kew, Fauna and Flora International and the Jersey Wildlife Preservation Trust. Work has started on two nurseries and field programmes have resulted in exciting finds. A new and large population of the critically endangered endemic palm Acanthophoenix rubra has been located on Rodrigues and survey work is locating founder individuals for the forthcoming restoration programme. On Cascade St Louis, Shelagh Kell (a Kew-sponsored MSc student at the University of Birmingham) has undertaken an analysis of vegetation to establish targets for habitat restoration - work funded by the Friends of Kew. Finally, recent planting on Round Island has resulted in a crop of ebony seedlings (Diospyros eggretarum), the first on the island for perhaps over a century.

Contact: Mike Maunder (0181-332 5583)

Biodiversity Conventions Officer

In May 1996, Kerry ten Kate took up her post as Kew's Biodiversity Conventions Officer. Kew's implementation of the CBD will be central to Kerry's work and her job will entail working with staff across the Gardens to finalise, for example, codes of conduct for collectors and material transfer agreements, and to set up partnerships with countries in which Kew collects. She will also develop model case studies and pilot projects in the field on benefit sharing and access to genetic resources. On Kew's behalf, she will continue to work with the secretariat of the CBD and advise the UK delegation in negotiations on biological diversity such as the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice to the CBD and its Conference of the Parties.

By background Kerry is a barrister, but for the last six years she has worked in environmental policy. She served for two years on the Secretariat of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (the Rio 'Earth Summit') and directed Environmental Strategies, a consultancy in sustainable development.

Contacts: Kerry ten Kate (0181-332 5741)
Noel McGough (0181 332 5722)

Rubiaceae of Madagascar

The training of a Madagascan researcher is an important component of a new three-year project, funded by The Leverhulme Trust, on the biodiversity of the Rubiaceae of Madagascar. This family is the second largest in Madagascar with over 800 species (ca 8% of the island's flora) but is amongst the least known. The project aims to produce a much-needed identification manual to genera (which will stimulate further research in this neglected family), an interactive specimen database (that will also be used within Kew's conservation GIS programme), and a provisional species checklist and revision of the economically important genus Coffea. The project's principal researcher, Dr Aaron Davis, will work under the direction of Diane Bridson and Dr David Du Puy.

Diane Bridson (0181-332 5227)

Biodiversity Research Training Courses

Herbarium Techniques

In March 1996 Kew ran its second Herbarium Techniques course overseas sponsored by the Darwin Initiative. The course venue was the Forestry Research Institute Malaysia at Kepong near Kuala Lumpur. Three Kew staff members formed the core lecture team with counterparts from Malaysia and the Natural History Museum, London.

The three-week course, attended by 22 participants from Malaysia and Singapore, provided a mixture of lectures, practicals and field trips, culminating in a three-day field trip at Pasoh Forest Reserve. This highly successful course not only provided a worthwhile learning experience for the participants but strengthened relations between the institutes involved and paves the way for further courses elsewhere.

Contact: Dr David Simpson (0181-332 5260)

Threatened Plants

The first Darwin Initiative funded Certificate Course for the Cultivation and Conservation of Threatened Plant Species was held at Kew this summer and was for students from UK-dependent territories. One of the participants, Sinead Doherty (Falklands government), has since initiated a collaborative recovery plan for the Falklands endemic Calandrinia feltonii, with the support of Kew and the NGO Falklands Conservation. The plant is thought to be extinct in the wild due to sheep grazing but survives in gardens on the islands and in the UK.

Contact: Mike Maunder (0181-332 5583)

In June, Roger Smith and Dr Robin Probert gave a course on seed conservation techniques to 60 Brazilian scientists at UNESP-University, Brazil. Opportunities for collaboration with the Millennium Seed Bank project were also explored with several institutions in Brazil.

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