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Significant Trade in CITES Plants - COMPLETED

Projects which build capacity in CITES Parties to make effective Non-Detriment Findings for CITES plants in trade.
Richard Wilford taking a rest from snowdrop monitoring in Georgia! © Richard Wilford

The Significant Trade process is the formal mechanism by which CITES identifies and corrects potential non-sustainable trade in species where Parties are having problems making an adequate Non-Detriment Finding (NDF) on export of wild Appendix II species of animals and plants. A member of the team chairs the CITES Plants Committee Working Group on Significant Trade and is co-chair of the formal process established by the CITES Conference of the Parties to review and revise its mechanism to detect and correct detrimental trade in Appendix II species.

Kew has carried out a number of CITES Significant Trade projects in countries which have large volume plant trade with the European Union. Previous projects have been carried out with China, Madagascar and Thailand. Most recently we have carried out a project on geophyte trade from Georgia. The purpose of this project is to support the CITES Authorities of Georgia in developing a sustainable trade in geophytes, in particular the snowdrop Galanthus woronowii. It is funded by the CITES Secretariat with funds donated by the Netherlands. Galanthus woronowii extends from north-east Turkey to eastern Georgia but it is most frequent in western Georgia, in the Ajara Autonomous Region. Snowdrops are popular garden plants and bulbs of G. woronowii are exported from Georgia to the horticultural industry in Western Europe. All snowdrops are included in CITES Appendix II, which lists plants that are not threatened with extinction at present but may become so if trade is not regulated and adequate NDF processes are not in place.

The Republic of Georgia has been exporting G. woronowii since 1997, with exports peaking at 18 million wild bulbs in 2003. Until this project was established there was little information available on the conservation status of the species in trade, the effect of collection on wild populations, the level of cultivation of bulbs in Georgia and how the Georgia CITES Authorities were making Non-Detriment Findings on export. As a result, CITES included this species in the Significant Trade Review and tasked Georgia to carry out a project to address these concerns. Kew was invited by the Georgian CITES Authorities to help with the assessment of fields where this plant is cultivated as well as recommending management processes for sustainable trade, quota setting and general advice on the applications of CITES to the bulb trade.

The separate task of surveying wild populations was led by our project partner David Kikodze of Tbilisi Botanical Garden and Institute of Botany, with the help of several other Georgian botanists. Over the spring of 2009, almost all known populations of G. woronowii in Georgia were studied. During this survey, 41 populations of G. woronowii (area of occupancy some 447 hectares – estimated to be 70% of the total) were surveyed and calculated to have 163 million harvestable bulbs (estimated 233 million in total area). Some 6.5 hectares of cultivation sites were visited holding an estimated 2.2 million harvestable bulbs. The total area of cultivation sites is estimated to be 196 hectares with an estimated harvestable stock of 65 million bulbs. Overall field surveys and modeling of population data by our partners in the Computational Ecology group at Microsoft Research in Cambridge, led to precautionary estimates that there is a total standing harvest stock of some 300 million bulbs, wild and cultivated, in some 820 hectares.

Bases on this research, the CITES Scientific Authority of Georgia made an informed Non-Detriment Finding implemented through a precautionary annual export quota of 15 million bulbs. This quota is now in place. The full results and recommendations of the project were approved by the CITES Standing Committee in March 2010, resulting in Georgia being free of any potential trade sanctions by the convention. The formal CITES project is now completed but co-operation continues between the project partners to ensure a heritage of sustainable trade. Additional field data was collected in 2010 and we organized with CITES Georgia the 8th European Regional CITES Plants Committee Meeting in Tbilisi in 2011, in addition to a traders information sharing workshop and a Customs training workshop. Advice is continuing on the application of a field registration system for smallholders and related national legislation, harvesting methods and assessing marking methods for potentially propagated stock and the setting of quota levels for 2012-2015.

Research in general on the CITES NDF process is included in this suite of projects. The International Expert Workshop on CITES NDF, Cancun, Mexico, 2008 brought together 103 invited experts from 33 countries to review and provide guidance on the CITES NDF process for the wide range of life forms of plants and animals covered by the Convention. The team provided a member of the Steering Committee, the Academic Committee and both co-chaired and organized the Geophyte and Epiphyte Working Group, providing the group report and guidelines for NDF and contributing to the suite of submitted to the CITES Technical Committees and CoP. A multi-authored paper was also published in the journal Biological Conservation.

Key papers published since 2006

  • Smith, M.J., Benítez-Díaz, H., Clemente-Mu≈àoz, M. A., Donaldson, J., Hutton, J., McGough, H.N., Medellin, R. A., Morgan, D. H. W., O’Criodain, C., Oldfield, T.E.E., Schippmann, U. & Williams, R.J. (2011). Assessing the impacts of international trade on CITES-listed species: Current practices and opportunities for scientific research. Biol. Conserv. 144: 82-91.




Project partners and collaborators


CITES Authorities of Georgia
Tbilisi Botanic Garden and Institute of Botany


CITES Authorities of the Netherlands


Microsoft Research, Cambridge
UK Border Agency

Project funders

InternationalCITES Secretariat

CITES Management Authority of Italy