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EuroGard 2000 - Congress Conclusions and Recommendations

Volume 3 Number 4 - June 2000

Judith Cheney

Congress Conclusions and Recommendations


Implementing action plans for botanic gardens in Europe

Moderator: Judith Cheney

The Congress welcomed the publication of the Action Plan for Botanic Gardens in the European Union and congratulated Botanic Gardens Conservation International, the BGCI/IABG European Botanic Gardens Consortium, its authors and editors and publisher, the National Botanic Garden of Belgium on its preparation and production.

The importance of the Action Plan to guide future concerted actions and programmes for botanic gardens in the European Union was noted. Delegates noted several examples of botanic garden networks working together to compile databases of their collections as a prerequisite for further collaboration. It was suggested that a clearing house system be set up to monitor and report on progress being made on initiatives taken to implement the Action Plan.

Congress participants recommended that:

  • All botanic gardens, large and small, can implement the Action Plan by responding to a selection of its 35 objectives.
  • There is a need to raise awareness of the scientific and conservation work carried out by botanic gardens by, for example, publicising the results of actions taken in the media and through such outlets as international, national and local journals and by holding ‘behind the scenes’ days.
  • Botanic gardens should recognise the benefits of improving communications, not only within the botanic garden community, but also with other institutions and organisations, such as museums, research institutes and other bodies, as well amongst local communities and potential supporters.


New botanic garden projects and new developments in botanic gardens

Moderator: Michael Kiehn

The Congress noted the similarities and commonality between new botanic garden projects throughout Europe, particularly acknowledging the adoption of their clear mission statements on the goals of the projects (including local, regional and global goals); clear identification of target audiences and displays presented for visitors; the obvious linkages between the botanic gardens and their neighbourhood communities and their needs and interests; the need for each project to be involved in conservation and education and concern for future financial sustainability once construction costs have been completed.

Congress participants recommended that botanic gardens:

  • Work to consolidate botanic gardens as centres for research and public information on the identification, biodiversity conservation and sustainable use of plant diversity.
  • Promote botanic gardens as tourist attractions.
  • Develop and manage ex situ and in situ conservation activities related to their local floras.
  • Insure that they remain attractive to their visiting public and relevant target groups to help ensure that they secure on-going financial security and continue to address local interests and needs.


Teaching sustainability using plant based stories

Moderator: Lucy Sutherland

The Convention of Biological Diversity and European Commission call on organizations to raise public awareness about environmental issues, sustainable living and the importance of conserving biological diversity. Botanic gardens in Europe, that are mainly based in urban locations, are ideally placed to promote themselves as models for sustainability using plant based stories and thematic planning.

Congress participants recommended that botanic gardens:

  • Identify issues that botanic gardens are best equipped to address through education programmes and activities.
  • Build the capacity of the general public to take responsibility for contributing to sustainable living in their local communities and in the wider global community.
  • Identify and develop themes that the botanic gardens are suited to convey that provide a focus and purpose for their education programmes.
  • Collaborate widely with other bodies and communities to promote sustainability.


Networking beyond the botanic garden: creating local alliances for rare plant conservation in Europe

Moderators: Jane Smart and Tom Curtis

The Congress noted that the integration of in situ and ex situ conservation is an essential requirement for effective plant conservation. However, concern was expressed that linkages between such approaches and disciplines are not sufficiently active. Furthermore, the Congress noted that in situ conservation requires greater support from botanic gardens, through active liaison and collaboration and liaison. The special case of zoological gardens was noted as an opportunity for the introduction of a new and younger audience to plant conservation. The Congress also highlighted the magnitude of our tasks in conservation which cannot be achieved with out active collaboration between diverse sectors and sectoral interests.

Congress participants recommended that botanic gardens should:

  • Continue to develop a wide range of partnerships with other organisations, as an essential requirement for modern plant conservation.
  • Broaden funding support for integrated conservation projects through the development conservation projects supported by diverse organizations.
  • Recognize that developers should be fully involved at all stages of conservation projects, in which they have a major role, so as to encourage their future support when further projects are proposed and ensure that conservation and development can become closely compatible.
  • Collaborate with organizations involved in plant conservation in Europe, such as Planta Europa to ensure that efforts for integrated conservation are closely coordinated and fully complementary.


Horticultural research

Moderator: David Rae

The Congress noted that there is a genuine opportunity for botanic gardens to undertake horticultural research, but that it should not be regarded as different from research that takes place elsewhere within the garden. It was also noted that one of the present limiting factors on horticultural research is because most horticultural staff do not come from research/graduate backgrounds. The Congress determined that it should be a priority to break down and real or perceived barriers between horticultural and research staff. Development of close inter-institutional collaboration for horticultural research should be promoted. There is a need to encourage horticultural staff to become more involved in research and for the priorities and needs in horticultural research to be defined.

Congress participants recommended that botanic gardens should:

  • Encourage their horticultural staff to undertake or participate in research on plant collections.
  • Recognise that many aspects of horticultural research are appropriate areas for botanic garden involvement.
  • Recruit or train staff appropriately so as to build the capacity for horticultural research in botanic gardens.


Information management: developing your collections database

Moderator: Peter Wyse Jackson

The Congress noted the great diversity of new tools and applications available to botanic gardens in the field of information technology, especially relating to the development of information management and public education. Multimedia presentations using CD-Roms and the Internet offer considerable potential for raising awareness amongst the public about botanic gardens and their roles. The challenges in developing and maintaining efficient databases for living collections was also discussed, not only the difficulties in maintaining information that is up to date and compatible with that held by other institutions but also in ensuring that the identity of botanic garden collections are well verified.

Congress participants recommended that botanic gardens should:

  • Seek to develop and support greater information management and coordination for botanic gardens at the national and international level, through the use of distributed databases and by other means; to help ensure that botanic garden collections and experience are accessible to support conservation, research and for other purposes.
  • Undertake programmes to create, install and operate efficient data management systems in more European botanic gardens, while at the same time ensuring close compatibility between the different systems and approaches taken.
  • Provide assistance to institutions in other parts of the world to support their efforts to build efficient and effective information management systems.


Undertaking an audit of your Garden for the Biodiversity Convention

Moderators: Peter Wyse Jackson, China Williams and Marliese van den Driesch

Congress participants noted the fundamental importance of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) for the operation of botanic gardens in the European Union. The diverse range of articles which botanic gardens can contribute towards implementing were highlighted and simple processes towards undertaking “CBD-audits” for individual gardens were outlined. Congress participants considered it very important for botanic gardens to become involved in national processes to implement the Convention on Biological Diversity, making genuine and significant contributions towards developing, supporting and implementing national biodiversity action plans and policies. Their role in capacity building for institutions in developing countries for biodiversity conservation was also noted as of particular importance.

Congress participants recommended that botanic gardens should:

  • Ensure that their wealth of experience and resources are available to support the implementation of the Convention at national and international levels and seek to play an important part in influencing legislation and the future development of the Convention at all levels.
  • Develop clear institutional policies, procedures and practices to meet their obligations under the CBD.
  • Play an active role in promoting the CBD amongst the general public;
  • Collaborate with a wide range of institutions to promote the implementation of the CBD through broad cooperative programmes, involving diverse techniques including integrated in situ and ex situ conservation.


Lower plant conservation: developing the role of botanic gardens

Moderator: Jan Rammeloo.

The Congress noted that cryptogams and cryptogam conservation is a relatively new theme for botanic gardens. Botanic gardens have to play a role in the study, conservation and education concerning this important group of plants. Cryptogam protection has primarily been undertaken in situ, therefore gardens have to associate their conservation programmes with other non garden parties. Nevertheless ex situ conservation also has a role to play but must be based on scientifically sound criteria. In addition they delegates regarded education also as extremely important, which can be promoted by means of exhibitions and permanent displays of growing plants. One of the best ways of demonstrating the importance of cryptogams is by using naturally occurring cryptogams in the garden to support educational programmes. Botanic garden management should also be aware of the importance of preserving naturally occurring populations of significant species and to create niches where cryptogams can survive and develop.

Congress participants recommended that botanic gardens should:

  • Promote educational awareness at school and higher education levels about cryptogams, emphasizing their role in ecosystems.
  • Link up with conservation agencies and other relevant organisations in order to define priorities for ex situ conservation for cryptogams.
  • Undertake active conservation programmes and policies to protect naturally occurring cryptogams in areas under their control.


Genebanking: priorities and policies for European botanic gardens

Moderator : Esteban Hernández Bermejo

The Congress noted that there are many gene banks in EU botanic gardens. However, there are still relatively few working with long term conservation techniques. Many of them have as an objective the conservation of endangered regional flora (such as the Canarian and Cordoba Gene Banks, described during the session). However others, such as the Trinity College Dublin Botanic Garden, also work with a wide range of wild species and with local crop varieties. Seed banks are the most frequent technique used but others such as the maintenance of field collections or in vitro banks are also important. Delegates commented that there is a need to implement specific actions in this field concerning the objectives, techniques and priorities for EU botanic gardens contributing as a component of the Action Plan.

Congress participants recommended that botanic gardens should:

  • Promote a strategic action plan concerning gene banks for the development of an effective network for such facilities in Europe, with close cooperative links and clear objectives.
  • Implement up to date conservation and management methods for the management of gene banks and compile a comprehensive checklist of gene banks, accessions, species and methods involved or conserved by them for Europe.
  • Review the Index Seminum system in the framework of the CBD.
  • Strengthen links with other bodies holding gene banks.
  • Provide technical assistance in appropriate areas of botanic garden expertise, such as plant taxonomy, to other bodies maintaining gene bank collections


Conserving the fragments: conservation of remnants of European species

Moderator: Jean-Yves Lesouef

The Congress noted the urgency of undertaking the rescue of many critically endangered plant species in Europe, as well as the need to consolidate and manage important stocks of endangered species from other regions conserved in European botanic gardens. Furthermore, the Congress participants agreed that not only is it important to fully integrate the conservation activities undertaken ex situ and in situ but also to maximise the surviving genepools of such critically threatened plants. The meeting also considered that a careful selection process should be determined to choose the top priority species for action where botanic gardens are most appropriate to contribute.

The Congress participants recommended that botanic gardens should:

  • Work to create a coordinating body or mechanism for the rescue of the most threatened plants.
  • Develop a database including information on such species, containing relevant information on in situ and ex situ conservation, methodologies and proposals for action.
  • Initiate a new forum to share experiences and improve access to information and technical assistance for developing methodologies and resources.


Business planning and fund-raising for botanic gardens

Moderator: Bruce Labey

The Congress noted that strategic planning is an important and valuable exercise and a means of strengthening botanic garden's directions and effectiveness. The Congress suggested that time should be set aside for each botanic garden to ensure that such development and strategic plans are created. The Congress also proposed that botanic gardens may develop associate business plans to ensure change happens in a planned and structured way, as well as to determine appropriate budget and resource allocation, and marketing initiatives and staff training programmes.

Congress participants recommended that:

  • Botanic garden business plans should be based on inputs from all levels of staff within the institution to ensure that they are actively involved in its production and implementation and to ensure that they become active stakeholders.
  • Business plans should be used as the principle means of guiding future developments towards achieving the institution’s mission and visions, and should be monitored and revised as necessary during the development process.
  • More botanic gardens should undertake business-planning exercises to turn their strategic objectives into reality and to empower staff, but that plans should remain flexible to cope with and adapt to changes in the external environment surrounding the botanic garden.


Addressing science through education

Moderator: Klaus Ammann

Congress delegates noted that botanic gardens should provide education activities and programmes that cater for their largest audience type. The programmes should provide opportunities for visitors to ‘interact’ with the environment. Delegates also considered that science education was one of the key areas that botanic gardens should focus their education programmes.

Congress participants recommended that botanic gardens should:

  • Ensure that the education services are seen as equally important within the organisation as horticulture and science.
  • Establish themselves as unique centres of plant knowledge and information for the general public.
  • Undertake research to investigate and evaluate appropriate methods of informal adult education about plants.
  • Conduct education programmes that help visitors to make the link between the environment and their everyday lives.
  • Provide programmes to address science education that use a variety of techniques and targets a wider audience.
  • Make efforts to involve the media in providing authoritative and accurate information about plants to the general public.


Phytogenetic resources conservation and utilization through botanic gardens

Moderators: Marcin Zych and Romaric Pierrel

Congress delegates noted that botanic gardens should act as a catalyst for interactions between science and horticulture, an interface, which is of great importance for the conservation and utilization of plant genetic resources. Botanic gardens also play an essential role in breeding and introducing new plant cultivars. They noted that botanic gardens should stimulate and support local actions aimed at creating collections of locally or historically important plant cultivars (both crops or ornamentals are a part of our heritage and therefore should be preserved).

Congress participants recommended that botanic gardens, as a community, should:

  • Act as centres of scientific horticulture and provide the public with relevant and necessary information on phytogenetic resource conservation and utilisation.
  • Create collections of economically important plant varieties, ideally in cooperation with local horticultural societies and genetic resource institutions.
  • Record and protect the existing biodiversity of useful plants, not limiting themselves only to wild plant protection but increasingly being involved in conservation and utilisation of economic plants.


Developing common policy guidelines for botanic gardens on access and benefit sharing provisions of the Convention on Biological Diversity

Moderators: China Williams, Marliese von den Driesch and Barbara Di Giovanni

Participants considered that the development of harmonised policies for botanic gardens in this area are important but that they should be simple and flexible and seek to avoid excessive paperwork. Gardens participating in adopting the Common Policy Guidelines should work closely with their national network organizations to ensure the widespread involvement by other gardens, large and small, in the process. The participants noted that it is important that the Common Policy Guidelines clarify exactly what implementation would involve for individual gardens, and to establish a programme to assist smaller gardens in their implementation, through, for example, establishing tracking mechanisms, involvement of staff and drafting simple but appropriate transfer agreements. The meeting suggested that gardens participating in the Common Policy Guidelines could approach the European Consortium in support of developing a general European-wide approach. It was also suggested that the Common Policy Guidelines should be evaluated by European botanic gardens and they could also be used to influence emerging national and international legislation. A Code of Conduct for German botanic gardens relating to access and benefit sharing was also noted as a possible model to consider for wider adoption.


Research on the flora of Macaronesia

Organized by Julia Pérez de Paz and Pedro Sosa Henríques

It is hoped that the results of this session will be issued separately.


What are the future roles of European plant collections in systematics

Moderator: Tod Stuessy

Congress participants noted the important roles played by botanic gardens in plant systematics in Europe. The value of botanic gardens as facilities to support systematics were also considered, for teaching, research and services, including public education. The balance between these roles will vary from institution to institution depending on the local situation and context of the garden. During the Congress, speakers outlined the need for a comprehensive inventory of European plant diversity to be prepared.

The Congress participants recommended to botanic gardens the following priorities for the implementation of the Action Plan for Botanic Gardens in the European Union:

  • To develop and maintain appropriate systematic collections and plantings to support teaching in systematics. Special attention should be given to emphasising new and modern systematic systems.
  • To maintain a rich taxonomic diversity in collections, so important for research and teaching purposes.
  • To give special attention to ensuring accuracy in the documentation of living collections for research needs.


Managing historic botanic gardens: reconciling the historic with modern roles

Moderator: Gianni Bedini

Participants in the session indicated that the concept of “freezing” historic botanic gardens in time to one given historical aspect is not a feasible or desirable option. They suggested that the development of new initiatives and the addition of new facilities can take place, provided that they are in accordance with the historic context of the garden. When this is not feasible, they proposed that there are two options, first, to enlarge the garden, if additional adjacent space is available and secondly, to create a new garden, which must not be a substitute but complementary, such as a satellite specialised garden. Furthermore, the participants suggested that the history of both on site buildings and plant accessions need to be recorded, as they form a holistic entity that constitutes the individuality of the garden.

The Congress participants recommended to botanic gardens the following priorities for the implementation of the Action Plan for Botanic Gardens in the European Union:

  • Raise awareness of the roles of botanic garden in European history, development of botany, history of science and plant introduction through accurate historic documentation, in collaboration with horticulturists, agronomists, architects, art historians, and historians.
  • Seek recognition of the heritage value of botanic gardens, as a result of the documentation gathered in collaborative studies.
  • Safeguard and document for the future the site buildings and plant accessions and any change that they might undergo.