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Sustained Plant Conservation in the Insular Caribbean

Capacity building, seed banking and plant propagation for the conservation of the plant genetic diversity in the Insular Caribbean.

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T. Ulian, RBG Kew

Seed collecting in the Dominican Republic (Image: T. Ulian, RBG Kew)

Plant diversity and endemism in the Caribbean Islands hotspot are both very high, with a total of 13,000 species estimated to occur in the Caribbean region and 6,550 considered as single-island endemics. Of an estimated 2,500 genera of seed plants in the Caribbean, 204 angiosperm genera are endemic to the Greater Antilles.

Unfortunately, human impact has been heavily modifying and often degrading the natural environments in the insular Caribbean over the past 200-300 years. Many plant species are under threat from mining and quarrying, fire, agricultural development, tourism, introduced animals and exotic plant species, and many of these threats extend into protected areas. Plant conservation and ecological restoration activities - in parallel with habitat protection and management initiatives - are therefore necessary to safeguard plant species from extinction.

The purpose of the project is to strengthen the technical and institutional capacity of regional institutions to contribute to the conservation of the high plant diversity and endemism of the region.

The main components of the project are:

  1. capacity building in seed conservation;
  2. ex situ conservation of priority plant species;
  3. plant propagation and the development of propagation protocols for reforestation and
  4. research on seed storage behaviour.

The project has its hub in the Dominican Republic, where it has been developed jointly with the Jardín Botánico Nacional ¨Dr Rafael Maria Moscoso¨ (JBN) since 2007 and counts on the support of the University of Pavia in Italy (an ENSCONET partner) since 2010.

In the Dominican Republic, Kew has provided training and advice for ex situ conservation, seed bank design and for seed testing (orthodox vs. recalcitrant species), and 97 collections of 68 species have been banked. In Cuba it has provided training to manage seed collections for ecological restoration.

Funding has been provided through the MSBP to allow fieldwork and capacity building and this has been enhanced in 2010 with a grant from the Council of Milan (Italy) under the Lombardy region, where the University of Pavia is located.

The project intends to extend its ex situ conservation programme and training activities to Puerto Rico and to create synergies with ongoing activities in the UK Overseas Territories in the Caribbean region.

Project partners and collaborators

Cuba

Empresa Nacional para la Protección de la Flora y la Fauna (ENPFF), Santa Clara. Villa Clara

Dominican Republic

Jardín Botánico Nacional Dr Rafael Maria Moscoso (JBN)

Italy

Earth and Environmental Sciences Department, University of Pavia

Annex material

Conferences and workshops

  • Milano, Italy, 10-11 June 2010 - Convegno internazionale sulla biodiversità: Rossi, G., Cauzzi, P., Ulian, T., Garcia, R., Encarnacion, W., Clase, T.,, Gransi, M., Tazzari, E.R., Gandini, M. Conservación de la biodiversidad vegetal en la Republica Dominicana ( Caribe): un proyecto que nace en Lombardía (Italia).[poster]
  • ‘Seed Conservation Course/Workshop’, organized jointly with the Jardin Botanico Nacional ¨Dr Rafael Maria Moscoso (JBN), in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic in 2007.
  • ‘Seed Management for Ecological Restoration’ workshop within the II and III Simposio Internacional sobre Restauración Ecológica in Santa Clara, Cuba in 2007 and 2010.