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Ex Situ Plant Conservation Supporting Species Survival in the Wild

Book review

'Ex Situ Plant Conservation Supporting Species Survival in the Wild'

Edward O. Guerrant Jr., Kayri Havens and Mike Maunder (eds), 2004

Island Press, Covelo, U.S.A. 424 pp. ISBN 1-55963-875-3 (paperback) ISBN 1 55963 874 5 (hardback) Price: $40.00 (paperback), $80.00 (hardback) plus postage $6.75. For further information and orders contact the Island Press, Dept. 3AU, P.O. Box 7, Covelo, CA, U.S.A. Tel: +1 707 983 6432, (1-800-828-1302 U.S.A.), Fax: +1 707 983 6414, E-mail: or, Internet:

This book has been eagerly awaited since the conference held in the Chicago Botanic Garden in 1999, entitled “Strategies for Survival: Ex Situ Plant Conservation” on which it is based. It is essential reading for all botanic gardens whether they have formal conservation programmes or not.

Ex situ plant conservation is often seen as irrelevant to in situ conservation which is regarded as the highest priority. There are also many problems, practical, scientific and ethical. This book addresses these problems and shows that properly managed off-site collections can make a critical difference between extinction and survival and moreover that ex situ conservation is a responsibility of botanic gardens. Sir Ghillean Prance, in the introduction also emphasizes the important role of botanic gardens in conservation to respond to the challenges of today’s world.

Part I discusses the role of ex situ conservation in integrated conservation programmes and the scientific rigour required for the collection, storage and use of the collections. These papers cover the philosophical and ethical concerns with examples of integrated conservation in Western Australia and the United States and a chapter on lessons from zoos. Part II reviews the ‘Tools of the trade’ from horticulture, seed and pollen to tissue culture. One of the main criticisms of ex situ collections for conservation is that the samples of growing plant, tissues or seed are subject to genetic modification; Part III reviews the effect of selection pressures of the horticultural and storage environment and provides practical steps to mitigate these pressures. Part IV assesses the role of ex situ plant conservation for stemming the loss of biodiversity and makes practical recommendations notably an urgent need for investment in infrastructure and horticultural skills. This Part provides practical guidelines for genetic sampling, seed storage and the management of collections.

It has a Foreword by Peter H. Raven, Director of Missouri Botanical Garden and has been supported by the Society for Ecological Restoration International, the Island Press and the Center for Plant Conservation.