Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew celebrated 10 years of collaboration with the National Botanic Garden of the Dominican Republic on Monday 7 August. The two institutions have been working together to protect threatened plant species in the Dominican Republic, particularly those needed for food, fuel and medicine. An example is the Dominican Republic’s national tree, La Cahoba (Swietenia mahagoni), which yields a prestigious wood used for furniture and is very highly valued.
The Dominican Republic shares the Caribbean island of Hispaniola with Haiti and is rich in plant species, many of which are not found anywhere else in the world. Unfortunately, human activities such as mining and agricultural development have resulted in large areas of the island’s forests being cut down, with other negative impacts coming from invasive species and sometimes tourism.
In response to these threats, Kew and the National Botanic Garden began a partnership in 2007 to conserve and restore plant species in the Dominican Republic, particularly through creation of the Caribbean’s first seed bank set for opening in 2017, where seeds will be stored and protected for years to come. Joint activities over the last 10 years have included conducting important explorations of forests, collecting plants and holding meetings to discuss findings. Kew has provided some financial support for this work through the generosity of the Garfield Weston Foundation as well as technical advice for construction of the Seed Bank.
Tiziana Ulian, Senior Research Leader of Diversity and Livelihoods at Kew, said that the strategic alliance has benefited both institutions due to the knowledge gained of Hispaniola flora.
Ricardo García, General Director of the National Botanic Garden, stressed that the relationship has also allowed the Dominican Republic to become involved with Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank, the largest and most diverse collection of seeds from wild plant species in the world.
Photo: Tiziana Ulian, Chris Campbell and Ricardo García
The celebration was attended by Chris Campbell, British ambassador to the Dominican Republic, several Dominican Republic vice ministers as well as staff from Kew Gardens (Tiziana Ulian, Efisio Mattana and Pablo Gomez) and the National Botanic Garden (including General Director Ricardo García). A mini symposium explaining the collaboration and joint projects followed the celebration, with presentations given by Tiziana Ulian and Efisio Mattana on the Garfield Weston Foundation funded tree projects currently taking place in the Dominican Republic.