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Report on the Fifth International Botanic Gardens Conservation Congress, South Africa

Volume 3 Number 1 - December 1998


Workshop Conclusions and Recommendations



1. Species recovery programmes

Convenors: John Donaldson (South Africa) and Stephen Hopper (Australia)

  1. Botanic gardens must integrate their activities with those of other organizations, communities and amateur bodies to build co-operative species recovery programmes.
  2. In their strategic plans, botanic gardens must take species recovery seriously because it impacts on the type of collections that are built up, data quality, resource allocation, and the focus of horticultural skills and science programmes.
  3. As part of a consultative process, botanic gardens need to set priorities for which taxa and restoration projects they will undertake.These will vary from garden to garden and will be driven by community values and needs.
  4. BGCI should set up a vocabulary and protocol for species recovery.

2. Conservation Genetics

Convenor: Kingsley Dixon (Australia)

  1. There is a need to facilitate a network of "centres with capacity" for genetic testing in botanic gardens.
  2. There is a need for the promotion of key centres with capacity for conservation genetics to provide a cost effective molecular evaluation "service" for other botanic gardens.
  3. Priorities are required for how and when to use molecular markers for genetic screening.
  4. DNA samples should be an integral component of the herbarium vouchering process (these can be cheaply and effectively stored as leaf samples in silica gel).

3. Habitat Management and Restoration

Convenor: Robert Marrs (U.K.)

  1. The participants recognize two complementary disciplines Habitat Management (preservation of existing biodiversity) and the Restoration Ecology (restitution of biodiversity) and there is a need to look at functioning ecosystems.
  2. Botanic gardens can provide some of the expertise for Habitat Management and Restoration Ecology, but need to link with other professionals - restoration ecologists/conservation biologists and non-garden bodies such as land managers and in situ conservationists and should not be afraid to be experimental.
  3. Botanic gardens with access to the existing habitats (on/off site) can use these constructively to develop methods, which can be used as showcases for demonstrations and/or publicity and education.
  4. Methods of evaluations need to be developed; these must be long-term with set targets, measurements of success/failure and taking space/time into account.
  5. Botanic gardens must been seen to be truly professional bodies if they are to be taken seriously and must show results to policy makers and base advice on sound science.Botanic gardens must publish in appropriate journals.

4. Botanic Gardens and Genetic Resources

Convenor: Robert Bye (Mexico)

  1. The participants agreed that there is a need to define the role of botanic gardens in the development and commercialization of native plants.
  2. There is a need to make compatible objectives, methodologies, expected results and evaluations in botanic garden research.
  3. Local populations of people should provide inputs such as identification of needs, provision of plant material and related information and expected results and forms of collaboration.
  4. There is a need to clarify the nature and the effects of intensive use and commercialization of wild plant resources, such as benefit-sharing provisions, collecting consequences and cultivation.
  5. There is a need to define the role and relationships between botanic gardens and industry in terms of education and marketing.

5. Genebanks in Botanic Gardens

Convenor: Brigitte Laliberté (IPGRI)

  1. To encourage greater collaboration between organizations concerned with the conservation of plant genetic resources in gene banks particularly with the agricultural research sector.A good model is that between CPC and USDA in theU.S.A.
  2. To seek agreements on germplasm conservation standards between botanic gardens and agricultural genebanks.
  3. For BGCI to encourage and facilitate the establishment of genebanks in areas of high botanical diversity through an adequate process of consultation between all stake holders.
  4. To encourage genebanks in botanic gardens to closely follow the terms and conditions as set out by the CBD and the International Undertaking on Plant Genetic Resources for the conservation, exchange and use of germplasm.
  5. To facilitate and foster international collaboration between botanic garden and agricultural genebanks; the existing regional and international networks should play and important role.

6.Network Development and Collaboration

Convenor: Brien Meilleur (U.S.A.), Edelmira Linares (Mexico) and Jeanette Mill (Australia)

Network meetings

Recommendations from the Network meeting and the North American, Australian, Russian and Latin American Working Group were as follows:

  1. BGCI should seek to ensure that network organizations are actively involved in the development of a revision of the proposed International Agenda for Botanic Gardens.
  2. BGCI should facilitate the identification/creation of a coordinating group for this undertaking, with objectives, tasks and timelines.
  3. BGCI should work with this coordinating body to develop the concept of twinning among networks from better developed and less developed countries/regions.
  4. BGCI should explore its options for integrating the new International Agenda for Botanic Gardens development process, and the "Agenda" itself, with established networks in the other major sectors involved in conservation (research, education, restoration, in situ conservation) to ensure maximum relevancy of the BGCI document.
  5. BGCI should strongly encourage network creation and networking generally in the "Agenda".
  6. BGCI should create with assistance from the network coordinating group and the network participants, a directory of existing networks and send it to networks and Botanical Gardens along with a survey asking for information on "other" network assistance and recommendations for where networks need to be created.
  7. BGCI should encourage networks to create a Clearing House Database containing information in conservation, research, taxonomy, education, bio-geography and restoration activities on the rare plants of their regions and make that information readily available.

African Network Group Recommended That:

  1. BGCI seek to redevelop an African focus, including an "African Botanic Gardens Newsletter".
  2. BGCI to endeavour to open a regional African office to serve as the African focal point for botanic gardens.Different types of networks and partnerships also to be considered e.g. links with IUCN Arabian Plant Specialist Group Programme.
  3. BGCI to facilitate support through fund-raising for African botanic garden representatives to attend 6th BGCI Congress inNorth Carolina and ensure their full participation
  4. BGCI to conduct a survey of e-mail/internet facilities in African botanic gardens in order to promote communication and networking.
  5. The international botanic garden community to support the development and implementation of capacity building programmes in African botanic gardens and for them to be held in country.
  6. BGCI to conduct a survey of botanic gardens in developed countries holding African flora to identify and determine expertise in the cultivation and propagation of specific African plant taxa/groups.

European Networks Meeting

  1. That all European networks lobby their MEP's (Member of European Parliament) to ensure that the resolution by the EU recognizing the value of Botanic Gardens is acted upon.
  2. That key contact persons of the European Networks present at the meeting should maintain communication and that the EU Botanic Gardens Consortium would for the time being co-ordinate this activity.
  3. That a subset of the European Network be created for Mediterranean countries, includingIsrael andNorth Africa.Botanic Gardens can be members of several networks e.g. the North African subset of the European Network and the African Network.


1. The Convention on Biological Diversity

Convenor: Peter Wyse Jackson (BGCI,U.K.)

  1. Botanic gardens are vitally important in the implementation of the CBD and must accept new responsibilities and the challenges posed.
  2. Botanic gardens should play a major role in influencing and contributing to the mechanisms of the Convention itself, including contribute to COP meetings and SBSTTA.
  3. It is important to develop integrated institutional policies on CBD, including the preparation of CBD audits and the full involvement of staff in implementation.
  4. There is a need to harmonize policies internationally and nationally and strengthen collaboration, as an aid to setting priorities.
  5. It is important to establish baseline information and from this, create appropriate action plans to implement the CBD through botanic gardens.

2. Material Transfer Policies

Convenor: Kerry ten Kate (U.K.)

  1. The workshop recommended that botanic gardens should promote/influence national policy makers to draw to the attention of those countries developing access regulations the need to distinguish between the access procedure and benefit-sharing requirements for scientific research and those for commercial use.
  2. Recommended that a guide to access and benefit-sharing and material transfer policy be produced and disseminated to botanic gardens.
  3. Recommended that botanic gardens should proactively develop and adopt an institutional policy on access, benefit-sharing and material transfer agreements.
  4. Recommended that botanic gardens should work together to harmonize their policies on access and benefit sharing and their material transfer agreements.
  5. Recommended that botanic gardens should communicate their policies and practices on access and benefit-sharing to other relevant sectors such as government, private industry, the scientific community and NGOs.


Convenor: Michael Kiehn (Austria)

  1. An updated edition of the BGCI A CITES Manual for Botanic Gardens is urgently needed and highly recommended.
  2. Botanic gardens should train their staff more thoroughly regarding CITES issues.
  3. Botanic garden networks should help to disseminate relevant CITES information. BGCI could contribute by including a column entitled “CITES News” in the BGCI Newsletter.
  4. Botanic gardens should actively strengthen links to their national and regional CITES representatives. In order to facilitate this, BGCI is requested to provide a CITES Authorities Directory to their members.
  5. The 6th BGCI Congress Organizing Committee should invite the US CITES Management and Scientific Authorities to participate in a CITES workshop at this Congress. Also, a training workshop should be considered (possibly through APHIS).
  6. Botanic gardens can seek (and obtain) additional funding for projects on CITES plants (e.g. providing identification tools for national customs purposes or creating a CD-ROM on CITES including lists and images), or when acting as rescue centres for seized and confiscated plants (with clear regulations regarding reimbursement).
  7. The recognition of the scientific role of botanic gardens by national CITES (but also other governmental) authorities increases when they use expertise or training courses actively offered by botanic gardens.


1.Developing Botanic Gardens

Convenor: Etelka Leadlay (BGCI,U.K.)

  1. A common theme for the development of all gardens whether new or old is a strong sense of mission.
  2. Wide consultation with all sections of the community underpins the successful development of all botanic gardens.
  3. Cooperation and collaboration at the national, regional and international levels with other gardens, botanical institutions and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are important for developing the role of the garden within an integrated national strategy.
  4. Well-trained and experienced staff resources are one of the most important factors in the development of a botanic garden.
  5. Working with networks is essential; members of networks provide information and can evaluate the proposals.

2.Garden Design

Convenor: Judith Evans-Parker (U.S.A.)

  1. Botanic gardens must protect the history of botanic garden traditions throughout the world by innovative conservation of botanic garden sites important as cultural centres e.g.Padua.
  2. Botanic gardens must encourage linkages between gardens and organic development of botanic gardens in forms specific to their respective sites, culture and time.
  3. Designs focused on sustainability and the biological diversity underlying it should be encouraged as a model.
  4. Botanic garden design should allow for fluid and dynamic development in their plans.
  5. Botanic gardens must continue to present their message through an aesthetic form based on design which lifts the spirit.
  6. The needs of new botanic gardens are quite different from established sites.BGCI should consider creating a 'New Gardens Forum'.

3. Maintaining Botanic Gardens

Convenor: Stephen Forbes (Australia)

  1. Maintenance planning supports the collections policy and facilitates effective priority setting and resource allocation.Kirstenbosch is establishing continuance programmes for collections.
  2. Benchmarking provides a tool for measuring the effectiveness of programmes or processes against our competitors or relevant industries.Australia has undertaken an initial profiling exercise.
  3. The selection of benchmarking partners and processes and the analysis of results should be mission driven - in other words, benchmarking must assist us to deliver our mission.
  4. New botanic gardens may be achieved through analysis of existing parks and integration of key assets to achieve a botanic garden charter as in the botanic gardens of the City ofParis.
  5. Resourcing reflects the motivation of the community in particular Friends groups can drive community support and facilitate resource security.

4. Labelling and Interpretation

Convenors: John Roff (South Africa) and Marÿke Honig (South Africa)

  1. Botanic gardens should be experimental with their interpretation and be prepared to make mistakes and learn from them.
  2. Botanic gardens should thematically plan their interpretation.
  3. Botanic gardens should evaluate their interpretative material and use a variety of techniques to do this.
  4. A range of botanic garden staff should be involved to maximise the educational potential of theme gardens.

5. Plant Record Systems

Convenor: Kerry Walter (U.K.)

  1. There is no more important set of information maintained by an institution than the information about its collections.
  2. Biological information is inherently complex, and database systems designed to manage it must also be complex.
  3. Careful consideration should be given when deciding to design a collection management system in house or to adopt/adapt an existing system.
  4. Databases must continue to change and evolve as computer standards and user expectations change.
  5. Collection databases represent long-term institutional commitment.
  6. There is much to learn and share with colleagues in other communities e.g. museums.

6. Electronic Networking: Making the Most of the Internet

Convenors: David Galbraith (Canada), Gianni Bedini (Italy) and Igor Smirnov (Russia)

  1. The workshop participants recommended the establishment of a botanic gardens conservation and biodiversity Clearing House Mechanism, available on the internet and through other complementary media, in support of the renewed global strategy and delivery of the CBD.Such a Clearing House Mechanism should operate at the national and international levels.At the international level, BGCI could become the organization developing and managing the mechanism.
  2. BGCI should seek to link the botanic gardens conservation and biodiversity clearing house mechanism with the Clearing House Mechanism of the CBD.
  3. BGCI should implement a global botanic gardens directory on the web, with links to botanic gardens with sites (but note existence of Internet Directory of Botany).
  4. BGCI should prepare an information document for SBSTTA or for the COP on networks and on the roles of botanic garden databases in the inventory and monitoring of biological diversity.
  5. Individual botanic gardens should be urged to link their web sites (and contribute other information) to their respective National Biodiversity Clearing House sites.


1. Science Programmes

Convenors: Thomas Elias (U.S.A.) and John Parker (U.K.)

  1. Maintain systematics as a central role in botanic gardens and arboreta.
  2. Expand potential for maintaining genetic diversity/biodiversity in botanic gardens.
  3. Make greater use of ornamental plants and living collections to exemplify biodiversity.
  4. Increase research on plant propagation techniques, seed germination and storage.
  5. Promote fundamental science.

2. Strengthening Taxonomy in Botanic Gardens

Convenors: Nancy Morin (U.S.A.), Ghillean Prance (U.K.) and Gideon Smith (South Africa)

  1. Recognize taxonomic expertise is fundamental for plant conservation; taxonomists are essential for environmental assessment and restoration.
  2. Use education/interpretation specialists to help deliver taxonomic messages (i.e. know the audience, test effectiveness, make messages relevant).
  3. Ensure collaboration between taxonomic research unit and horticulture unit.
  4. Make taxonomic information available electronically and in popular forms.
  5. Recognize more expertise is needed. BGCI should assess current capacity for taxonomic work and gardens could use amateurs more.
  6. Promote taxonomic training

3.Strategies for the Control of Invasive Species

Convenors: Charles Lamoureux (Hawaii,U.S.A.) and Wendy Strahm (IUCN,Switzerland)

  1. A major role of botanic gardens is to publicize the invasive species problem through publications, exhibits and the world wide web.
  2. Botanic gardens should provide the public with alternative species for cultivation as substitutes for known invasive species.
  3. Botanic gardens should carefully scrutinize their seed lists to make sure that they do not contain known invasives.
  4. There is an urgent need for the establishment of a web-based database on known invasive species and their control, therefore we encourage the development of an early warning system being developed by the IUCN/SSC Invasive Species Specialist group.IUCN statement - invasive species are the number one threat to biodiversity.
  5. Botanic gardens should encourage and help with research to develop criteria that can be used to evaluate and predict the potential invasiveness of plants in their collections.


1. Strategic Planning

Convenors: Bernard Payne (U.K.) and Frank Howarth (Australia)

  1. The participants stressed the importance of having a Vision for every garden- where do we want to be.Each garden is unique and this should be reflected in the Vision.
  2. They noted the importance of participation (consultation) within and outside the organization in the production of a strategic plan.
  3. They considered that the politician is both the customer and the supplier; the relationship between the botanic garden and the politicians needs to be a partnership.
  4. The criteria of a successful strategic plan are:
  5. that it is specific
  6. that the outcome is focused, achievable and measurable.
  7. The benefits of strategic planning are the link between the budget, the action plan, the ownership of the strategy and accountability.

They noted that these principles apply to the development of the Botanic Garden International Agenda as well.

2. Developing Twinning Relationships Between Botanic Gardens

Convenors: Gerald T. Donnelly (U.S.A.)

  1. BGCI should actively encourage and facilitate conservation partnerships.
  2. There are several models for partnerships; one to one twinning, multi-lateral, and those involving garden networks.
  3. The best value of relationships is long term, involving mutual exchange of knowledge and experience.
  4. Partnerships should serve national or regional conservation strategies.
  5. Practical and achievable mechanisms for supporting relationships include a facilitated garden communication network, internet partner search, and information and funding for partner startups and scholarships.

3. Fundraising

Convenors: Peter Wyse Jackson (BGCI), Judy Zuk (U.S.A.), Christine Brandt (U.K.) and Jenny Jay (South Africa)

  1. The workshop included presentations which outlined the importance of effective, broadly based fund raising strategies for botanic gardens, to enhance the capacity and resources for institutions to support plant conservation.
  2. Highlighted the value of efficient communications and marketing to provide a clear message about the work and mission of botanic gardens to their visiting public and base of supporters and donors.
  3. Recognized fund-raising strategies must vary from region to region to be adapted to particular cultural conditions.
  4. Stressed the importance of providing more opportunities for botanic gardens to share experiences and expertise on fund-raising, marketing and commercialization.
  5. Suggested greater cooperation between botanic gardens, as well as between network organizations, for the development of new fund-raising initiatives.


1. Medicinal Plants

Convenors: Fiona Dennis (BGCI), He Shan-An (China) and Neil Crouch (South Africa)

  1. BGCI should promote new education programmes promoting public awareness of conservation and ethical issues relating to medicinal plants and the recognition of the contribution made by indigenous knowledge.
  2. There is a need to promote the sustainability of indigenous medicinal systems through the exchange of knowledge, skills and materials.
  3. It is be important to facilitate the development of CBD compliant policies relating to access to accessions and any subsequent commercialisation and the development of equitable benefit-sharing systems.
  4. Botanic gardens need to include as wide as possible genetic representation in their living plant collections.
  5. A higher degree of networking of institutions involved in the conservation of medicinal plants is required.Participants welcomed the establishment Medicinal Plant Nets to facilitate this.
  6. The study of folk taxonomy should be put onto the botanic garden agendas especially related to medicinal plants.
  7. This theme should also include traditional economic plants.


1. Policy Issues Affecting Botanic Gardens

Convenor: Gail Bromley (U.K.)

  1. When developing botanic garden policy, statements should be incorporated into the education Mission that specifically outlines conventions and Agenda 21 issues and these should underpin all education programmes.
  2. Botanic gardens should promote a greater awareness of the CBD, Agenda 21 and other conventions among their staff and the wider scientific community to improve understanding and to explain what botanic gardens can offer in this context through, for example, training courses and the development of working groups in botanic gardens.
  3. BGCI should continue to disseminate to botanic gardens popular information and resources on conventions and Agenda 21.
  4. An audit of botanic garden education programmes needs to be made to explore what is currently being offered that already enshrines the philosophy/recommendations of conventions.‘Good practice’ needs to be published as a resource.
  5. Botanic gardens need to implement a needs assessment, prior to the development of all programmes to ensure relevance and appropriateness of programmes within stated policies.
  6. Botanic gardens need to link with the other organisations which are working to implement Agenda 21 to form new partnerships on a national and international level.

2. The Role of Botanic Gardens in Sustainable Living

Convenor: Abel Atiti (Kenya)

  1. Threatened plant communities need to be restored for research and education and botanic gardens can play a role in this.
  2. Botanic gardens can influence change for sustainability through more participative management styles.
  3. Botanic gardens should develop programmes for environmental education through an action research approach.

3. Teacher Education

Convenor: Larry DeBuhr (U.S.A.)

  1. Botanic gardens need to see gardening as a broader concept and involve teachers so that they see it as valuable and useful in science education and other disciplines.
  2. Botanic garden teacher training programmes are evolutionary - composed of cycles of planning, assessment and teaching and should involve teachers in active learning.

4. Volunteers

Convenor: Nancy Morin (U.S.A.)

  1. Botanic gardens should use volunteer programmes as a mechanism for communicating environmental and conservation concepts.
  2. Botanic gardens should initiate volunteer youth programmes as a way to recruit new people to the fields of botany or horticulture.
  3. Botanic gardens should increase the use of volunteers in floristic and scientific monitoring programmes.
  4. When developing volunteer programmes, botanic gardens should have a formal process including policies and a vision to ensure a quality, manageable programme.

5. Interpretation

Convenor: Lucy Sutherland (BGCI)

  1. Botanic gardens need to use a wide range of avenues to bench mark and to discover effective ways to communicate their messages.
  2. Botanic gardens need to provide good information that ensures people can make informed decisions.
  3. Botanic gardens should explore a range of media, including electronic, to convey their messages.
  4. Production of information for education needs should start with identifying the issue before deciding on the communication approach.

6. Hands on Effective Interpretation

Convenors: John Roff (South Africa) and Marÿke Honig (South Africa)

  1. Where live interpretation is not possible, botanic gardens should use well-prepared signs or other appropriate media that encourages interaction as a means of communicating with visitors.
  2. Biodiversity should be a major topic for all botanic garden interpretative programmes.
  3. The interpretation of botanic gardens should be responsive to change, be it seasonal or related to local, regional and global issues.

7. Botanic Gardens Programs from Around the World

Convenor: Xola Mkefe (South Africa)

  1. Botanic garden education programmes should be planned, developed and implemented in a way that ensures they are manageable.
  2. Botanic gardens should work with the school and local community to serve their needs and establish a positive working relationship whilst still ensuring the mission of the botanic gardens.

8. Community Education/Outreach Programs

Convenor: Edelmira Linares (Mexico)

  1. Botanic gardens have a role in providing outreach programmes that target isolated and disadvantaged groups that are not able to physically gain access to botanic gardens.
  2. Botanic garden educators have an important role to play as facilitators by listening and respecting cultures and responding by helping people to see the link between plants and their lives.
  3. Botanic gardens are important in creating community gardens that provide services and facilities that assist the community in discovering plants and their value.

9. Planning to Make a Difference

Convenors: Bill Graham (U.K.) and Julia Willison (BGCI)

  1. Botanic gardens should become workable examples of sustainable living.
  2. All botanic garden staff should be trained so that they fully understand the importance and place of education.
  3. Access, signage and facilities in botanic gardens should be visitor friendly and reflect the local demography.
  4. Botanic gardens should promote a respectful, trusting culture with everyone working towards a sustainable future.
  5. Botanic gardens should use many ways to support green spaces throughout the whole community.
  6. Botanic gardens should have special programmes, formal and informal, that inspire visitors to discover the gardens, day and night.