GCBC - Supporting climate-resilient sustainable development in Africa

Part of the DEFRA-funded 'Global Centre on Biodiversity for Climate', we aim to realise the potential of plant bioresources as nature-based solutions in African biodiversity hotspots.

A tropical landscape includes a mix of forest, pasture and small homesteads on the edge of a protected area

Focusing on the identification of Tropical Important Plant Areas (TIPAs), this project aims to characterise the natural capital and ecosystem service provisioning of plant biodiversity hotspots, and to support in-situ conservation and sustainable utilisation of natural and agricultural bioresources that positively impact livelihoods and climate resilience.

Using a multi-disciplinary team from the UK, Ethiopia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, this project aims to:

  1. accelerate the documentation of areas rich in plant biodiversity through identification of TIPAs and an associated Red List of threatened plant species for host countries;
  2. document agricultural biodiversity and explore how agrobiodiversity may be better integrated into existing protected area frameworks and;
  3. develop case studies for how the natural capital and bioresources held in TIPAs can help enrich human wellbeing and fight climate change through nature-based solutions.

Building both in-country and international capacity in biodiversity assessment and prioritisation will be a central theme throughout the project.

As part of this programme, we will also pilot a novel ‘Payments for Agrobiodiversity Conservation Scheme’ in Ethiopia, which builds on the widely used concept of Payments for Ecosystem Services, compensating farmers for the global good they provide in maintaining in situ crop diversity.

Plantlife International established the Important Plant Areas (IPAs) system of identifying sites of global importance for plant biodiversity, to provide policy makers with a user-friendly and effective method of assessing plant diversity to better inform conservation and land use policy and to prioritise conservation in the areas that contain both globally-threatened species and habitats, and/or sites of exceptional botanical richness.

Although areas of botanical richness are not restricted to tropical areas, exceptional species richness is consistently associated with tropical biomes. They provide a barely tapped resource for technological innovations, including but not limited to, medicine, agriculture, food security, water use, and climate resilience in the face of climate change. The human benefit from the biodiversity in these areas is clear. The next step is documenting and conserving it, so that we can protect future applications to our own well-being.

Kew has been focused on documenting TIPAs across the globe since 2015, and this project aims to fill gaps in our documentation of species occurrence and TIPAS of the African continent.

By completing the identification of tropical important plant areas (TIPAs) in Ethiopia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone, these areas can be prioritised for in-situ conservation and sustainable utilisation.

These TIPAs networks will be used as a framework to examine the interplay between conservation and land-use, to model the natural capital that these areas provide, and develop an understanding of what this all means for the direct implementation of in-situ conservation efforts in these countries.

Individuals in a seedling nursery
Guinea: Centre Forestier Nzerekore’s new seedling nursery for threatened and socio-economically important species for reforestation in TIPAs sites © CFZ team
Seedlings in a nursery in Guinea
Guinea: Centre Forestier Nzerekore’s new seedling nursery for threatened and socio-economically important species for reforestation in TIPAs sites © CFZ team ​
Project Leaders

Iain Darbyshire

Olwen Grace

James Borrell

Project Officers

Charlotte Couch

Kelda Elliott

Team members

Kew Science:

Amy Barker

Steven Bachman

Martin Cheek

Garbriella Hoban

Isabel Larridon

Felix Lim

Eimear Nic Lughadha

Timothy Pearce

Jack Plummer

Seth Ratcliffe

Alexandra Roberts

Minerva Singh

Harry Smith

Vida Svanström

Carolina Tovar

Paul Wilkin

University of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia & the National Herbarium of Ethiopia:

Sebsebe Demissew

Ermias Lulekal

Sileshi Nemomissa

Ethiopian Biodiversity Institute:

Feleke Woldeyes

Hawassa University, Ethiopia:

Wendawek Mangesha

University of Gamel Abdel Nasser, Guinea & The National Herbarium of Guinea:

Sékou Magassouba

Guinee Ecologie:

Mamadou Diawara

Centre Forestiere Nzerekore, Guinea:

Leonce Mamy

University Of General Lansana Conte Sonfonia, Guinea:

Mamadi Camara

Njala University, Sierra Leone & The National Herbarium of Sierra Leone:

Aiah Lebbie

The Alliance of Bioversity and CIAT:

Adam Drucker

The non-Kew collaborators listed are direct collaborators of the project; but we do have other organisations working with us via our direct collaborators.

We are also open to developing new collaborations during the duration of the project. If you are interested in becoming a collaborator ,please email Iain Darbyshire at i.darbyshire@kew.org. Thank you!


1. Accelerate the assessment of the plant diversity of Ethiopia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone and its distribution.

  • increase Red Listing of threatened species in these areas
  • make a first assessment of TIPAs based on collated plant distribution data

2. Understand the trade-offs between wild plant and agricultural biodiversity hotspots, to guide in-situ conservation strategies

  • characterise agrobiodiversity hotspots and investigate mechanisms to integrate agrobiodiversity into widely-used protected areas and species conservation frameworks
  • create incentive-based approaches to in-situ conservation within an agricultural setting that promote farmers as custodians of the diversity of natural and agricultural areas

3. Assess and model the natural capital and ecosystem service provisioning offered by plant biodiversity in these countries

  • understand what drives the distribution of wild and agrobiodiversity hotspots, to improve predictions where data are sparse, as well as predicting the impact of climate change.
  • develop models of Natural Capital and ecosystem service provision to guide national policy in the areas of sustainable development and conservation

4. Build capacity in plant-focused biodiversity and natural capital assessment and its application to conservation and sustainable use of bioresources

  • provide workshops, training, and site-based approaches to in-situ conservation in Ethiopia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone
  • implement a major capacity building programme through an exchange programme of academic visitors to Kew, with training on Red Listing and associated expertise
  • run a major UK conference focusing on the integration of TIPAs into existing protected area conservation frameworks

Global Centre on Biodiversity for Climate (the UK government's Department of Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs-DEFRA)

RBG Kew and the Kew-led GCBC project are holding a conference on 22 to 23 February 2023.

This will be a culmination of the insight gained throughout six years of TIPAs work, as well as the first phase of the GCBC project at Kew.

The purpose of the conference is to convene major expertise in bioresources and protected areas and will have the objectives to:

  1. build awareness in plant bioresource assessment and establish a consensus on mainstreaming this information into international conservation and resource planning; and
  2. bring awareness to the importance of agrobiodiversity and incorporating measures of agrobiodiversity into KBA approaches.