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Arab Botanic Gardens Meeting

27 March 2007
 Barley, Hordeum distychum, believed to have first been brought into cultivation in the Arab region

 The Arab region has a rich botanical
heritage; Barley (Hordeum distychum) is
believed to come from the area.
Image © Kurt Stüber,
MPI für Züchtungsforschung

HRH Princess Basma bint Ali, the Executive of the Royal Botanic Gardens in Jordan, has expressed hope that this week's conference for Arab Botanic Gardens would form a new start for the Arab cooperation for exchanging information and environmental expertise.

Being held under the patronage of the HRH Prince Hamzeh bin Al Hussein, the second conference for Arab botanic gardens, which is organized by the Botanic Gardens Conservation International in cooperation with the Royal Botanic Garden, runs for two days this week.

Princess Basma said “The Royal Botanic Garden, aims to safeguard the botanical heritage for future generations, through conservation and educational programs”.

The Arabian region is famous for its deserts, which are in fact fragile ecosystems facing various threats including development, off-road driving, and serious over-grazing pressure.

Many plants in the region are international genetic resources, especially the cereals and legumes. There are also rich biological resources in the form of fruit trees, medicinal plants, ornamentals, range species, herbs and wild edible plants. Archaeological evidence shows that wheat-barley agriculture originated in the Near East.

Some work has been done on agrobiodiversity, and the conservation of seed and crops is underway. However, there are almost no botanic gardens in the region - Jordan's first was inaugurated recently.  The largest and best herbarium collection is in the Post Herbarium in the American University of Beirut.  Apart from this there are few and according to an IUCN report, curation is poor.

One of the main problems that the Arab countries are facing is the need for training cadres and to exchange expertise and information. For this reason, there will be a training program that includes environment education and preserving the nature by using regional and international resources.

The conference will provide an opportunity for participants to elaborate on the concept of botanic gardens their role in conservation, and to discuss means of enhancing regional and international support to develop and establish botanic gardens in the Arab region.

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