Plant Diversity Challenge: the Official UK Response to the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation
Co-ordinating the UK response to the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation
In the late 1990s, plant conservationists decided that something drastic was needed to draw attention to the plight of the plants around the world and hopefully halt the loss of species – how was this to be done? At the 16th International Botanical Congress held in St Louis, Missouri in 1999, a resolution was passed by the 5,000 botanists attending urging the world community to recognise plant conservation as an outstanding global priority. Responding to this call, Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) organised a meeting in 2000 to consider the need for a new global initiative in support of plant conservation, and this led to the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (GSPC), which was ratified by the Conference of the Parties of the CBD in 2002. The strategy listed 16 broad-reaching and challenging targets to be met by 2010. These ranged from the development of a working list of all taxa and identification of the levels of threats to different species to training the next generation to carry on the job of conserving the world flora.
In response to the publication of GSPC, a conference organised by Plantlife International, the Joint Nature Conservation Committee and Kew was held at Kew in 2003, with the aim of formulating the UK response to GSPC. After a period of consultation, the resulting document, Plant Diversity Challenge (PDC), was launched in 2004, with participation from government departments in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales in addition to the three bodies that organised the conference. It was the first national response to GSPC. Although largely based on the 16 targets set out in GSPC, the UK document inevitably focused on the local situation – a major difference was the inclusion of fungi in PDC, as many of the targets in GSPC for plants had already been met or were easily achievable in the UK, whereas the fungi needed some help. Our flora is one of the best studied worldwide, and Target 1 (relating to the development of a working list of all species) was to all intents and purposes completed for plants in the UK a long time ago. In contrast, there was no working list for many groups of fungi, and effective conservation relies on accurate knowledge of biodiversity – you can’t conserve something if you don’t know it is there. The Checklist of British and Irish Basidiomycota was a major contribution to meeting Target 1.
In April 2006, another conference was held at Kew (again co-organised by Kew, JNCC and Plantlife International) to assess progress against the targets and to formulate a strategy for how to reach the targets. This resulted in a follow-up document entitled Plant Diversity Challenge. 3 Years – 16 Targets – 1 Challenge (Annex 2), which led to 10 recommendations for how best progress could be made towards meeting the targets.
A two-day discussion meeting Science & development of government policy post Global Strategy for Plant Conservation: lessons for the future was held at Kew in June 2010, jointly organised with the Royal Society. This brought together experts from the UK and around the world to discuss the problems and prospects for embedding international policies such as GSPC in national and regional legislation. It resulted in a special issue of the Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society (166 (3); Science and development of government policy post-GSPC).
Following the endorsement of a revised Global Strategy for Plant Conservation in 2010, discussions are underway to decide what will follow Plant Diversity Challenge.
Key publications 2006-2011
- Plantlife International, Joint Nature Conservation Committee, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. 2007. Plant Diversity Challenge: 3 years - 16 targets - 1 challenge. Eds. Manley, V. J., Cheffings, C. M., Fay, M. F. Peterborough: Joint Nature Conservation Committee.
- Chase, M. W., Ali, N., Paton, A. J., Nic Lughadha, E. & Fay, M. F. (2011).Science and development of government policy post-Global Strategy for Plant Conservation: lessons for the future. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 166: 213–216. [Editorial for the themed issue Science and development of government policy post-GSPC; vol. 166 part 3]