Kew is celebrating 15 years of collaboration with organisations in Mexico, including the country's largest wild plant seed bank at the Autonomous National University of Mexico’s Faculty of Higher Studies of Iztacala (FESI-UNAM), and the National Commission for Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity (CONABIO). To date, the collaboration has resulted in 7% of Mexico’s flora being safeguarded in the Seed Bank at FESI-UNAM, each with a duplicate collection also held at Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank in the UK.
Today, on Friday 2 December, Kew representatives signed a new agreement with the Mexican Fund for the Conservation of Nature (FMCN) and HSBC Mexico, to support a two-year project focussing on arid areas in Baja California, which are threatened with habitat loss, climate change and invasive species.
Kew’s Director of Science, Prof. Kathy Willis will be addressing industry representatives at the Business and Biodiversity Forum on Saturday 3 December to outline some of the ways in which they can contribute to global efforts to tackle threats to biodiversity. She says;
'Mexico is the fifth most mega biodiverse country in the world. It is facing pressures on its ecosystems from agriculture, forestry, fisheries and tourism, leading to rapidly changing land use. We’re starting to see some very tangible results from the work we have been doing here for over a decade and we’re proud that Kew’s world class science and expertise is helping to inform some of the big environmental decisions about what to prioritise and where, in order to ensure sustainable ecosystems in the future. We are committed to our existing partnerships and are exploring new ones so we can collectively buck the trends and foster greater collective responsibility for the solutions to the biggest challenges facing our planet.'
Solutions include identification and collection of the wild relatives of commonly used crops, which could hold the key to future food supplies in areas threatened by climate change. Some of these ‘crop wild relatives’, which will be stored in Mexico’s seed bank, may represent sources of new genetic diversity and resilience.
Kew is also embarking on a four-year Tree Project in Mexico aiming to conserve seeds from approximately 300 priority tree species nationally. These include endemic, protected and useful plants important for the livelihoods of rural communities. Outputs from this project will include a database of tree species and a map of tree biodiversity hotspots. Both will be critical assets when modelling the actual and potential distribution of these important tree species under a changing climate.
Representatives from Kew are attending the 13th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP13). China Williams, Senior Science Officer at RBG Kew is participating in the Science for Biodiversity Forum highlighting Kew’s contribution towards the Aichi Targets, in addition to being a member of the UK Delegation. Kew’s Director of External Affairs, David Cope is hosting a side event at the Communication, Education and Public Awareness (CEPA) Fair which aims to foster a lively discussion with representatives from several other botanic gardens, about the wider role they play in communicating, educating and raising public awareness of biodiversity.