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A Vital Role for Botanic Garden Educators in Plant Conservation: The Global Strategy for Plant Conservation and You!

Volume 2 Number 1 - April 2005

Sarah Kneebone




Résumé en Français

Resumen en Español

Plants are a vital part of the world's biodiversity and an essential resource for human well-being.  Yet, despite our reliance on them, a crisis point has been reached – it is thought that between 60,000 – 100,000 plant species are threatened worldwide (GSPC, 2002).

In 2002 the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation was legally adopted by all governments who are signatories to the Convention on Biological Diversity.  Using a clear set of targets, the GSPC provides a framework for actions to bring about plant conservation, sustainable use, benefit-sharing and capacity building at global, regional, national and local levels with the ultimate goal to halt the loss of plant diversity.

Target 14 of the strategy involves 'Promoting education and public awareness about plant diversity: The importance of plant diversity and the need for its conservation incorporated into communication, educational and public-awareness programmes'.  Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) is the lead organisation for Target 14 and has been working on consultations to produce targets and milestones for its achievement.  Botanic garden educators are a major stakeholder within the biodiversity education field and BGCI is keen to gain your input.


The Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (GSPC) outlines a series of targets through which the ultimate aim of halting the current and continuing loss of plant diversity can be achieved.  The Strategy provides a framework to ‘facilitate harmony between existing initiatives aimed at plant conservation, to identify gaps where new initiatives are required, and to promote mobilisation of the necessary resources.’ It is also ‘a tool to enhance the ecosystem approach for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and focus on the vital role of plants in the structure and functioning of ecological systems’ (GSPC, 2002). 

The Strategy was initiated at the Botanical Congress in St Louis 1999, with a call for plant conservation to be recognised as an urgent international priority.  Following this, interested parties met in Gran Canaria, Spain, and produced a declaration.  The declaration was presented to the CBD Conference of the Parties, who then agreed that a specific strategy for plant conservation was needed.  The initial production of the Global Strategy was in conjunction with many national and international organisations including: IUCN-World Conservation Union, International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPGRI), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), WWF, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and BGCI.  These organisations now act as ‘lead’ partners for each of the adopted targets and are responsible for arranging consultation meetings to agree on subtargets, practical measures and milestones. 

What are the Objectives of the GSPC?

The objectives of the GSPC are grouped into five themes:

  • understanding and documenting plant diversity
  • conserving plant diversity
  • using plant diversity sustainably
  • promoting education and awareness about plant diversity
  • building capacity for the conservation of plant diversity.

The strategy outlines the different aspects of these objectives in a series of 16 targets together with the terms and technical rationale for each.

Why is the GSPC Relevant to Botanic Gardens?

Most of the targets are directly relevant to the work of botanic gardens.  Indeed, target 14 is particularly relevant in that it provides a legislative defence of the validity of education in botanic gardens and highlights its importance in the efforts for plant conservation. 

For a full list of targets, visit BGCI’s website

So, We’ve Got the Targets, What Now?

The next step of the process is to work out exactly how the targets are to be implemented.  This will take place at international, national and subnational levels.  By identifying the component parts of the targets, activities and milestones will be developed and incorporated into relevant plans, programmes and initiatives, including national biodiversity strategies and action plans. The GSPC targets are subject to continual consultation and revision.  Lead partners for each target coordinate consultations with relevant stakeholders who propose practical suggestions for taking the GSPC forward. These lead partners meet regularly to report on progress within their consultations, whether these are local, national or international.  Given that botanic garden educators are relevant stakeholders in most of the GSPC targets, it is important that they contact the relevant lead organisations and CBD focal points to express their commitment to this process.

Target 14

This Target focuses educators on the inclusion of plants (their conservation, diversity and importance) in environmental education.  Creating active support for plant conservation by empowering the general public through increased knowledge, appreciation and understanding of plants is a vital aspect of the GSPC.  As with many conservation issues the support of the masses is critical to its success.

To date, consultation on Target 14 has included:

  • sending the consultation document to all botanic gardens and major international organisations
  • workshops held in Romania, New Zealand and Canada by local plant conservation networks.
  • an initial consultation workshop held by BGEN (Botanic Garden Education Network, UK.)
  • a workshop run at the 2nd World Botanic Gardens Congress, April 2004, to discuss practicalities of national sub targets.

The sub targets under consultation are:  

  • Sub target 1:
    A national survey carried out to determine general level of awareness of plant diversity and conservation
  • Sub target 2:
    A framework for the implementation of Target 14 by the end of 2005
  • Sub target 3
    Analysis of how education and communication instruments can be used to support the implementation of all targets of the GSPC

For more information, or to offer suggestions or feedback on these subtargets please contact

The beauty of Target 14 is that anyone involved with environmental education (formal and informal) can play an active role in its achievement.  BGCI’s role is to encourage as many botanic gardens as possible to contribute to the GSPC.  One of the ways we do this is through publishing case studies in Roots and on our website ( 

What are the Implications of the GSPC for Educators in Botanic Gardens?

There are many aspects of the GSPC that botanic garden educators can become involved with and use to their advantage:

  • support the development of education programmes to implement Target 14
  • develop the capacity of all staff to implement Target 14 –building capacity is a target of the GSPC
  • participate in workshops concerned with the implementation of other GSPC targets
  • publicise their work through the BGCI and CEPA websites.

CEPA refers to Communication, Education, Participation and Awareness.  The CEPA work programme was approved by the parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity to address commitments to Article 13, Public Education and Awareness.  This programme includes the CEPA portal, whose website address is

How are Botanic Garden Educators Currently Supporting the GSPC?

Many botanic gardens worldwide are already doing huge amounts of work that supports the aims of the GSPC.  A recent survey (carried out by BGCI, November 2004) of BGEN (Botanic Garden Education Network, U.K) members provides some excellent ideas and ways in which educators are already contributing to the GSPC.

Target 11 – No wild species of flora endangered by international trade.

The Eden Project, Cornwall, has an exhibit about the uses and sources of different timber types from around the world in their Humid Tropics Biome.  Cambridge University Botanic Garden has interpretation panels explaining the significance of CITES within their glasshouses.  The Royal Horticultural Society produces a leaflet all about CITES for the public. 

Targets 9 and 13 – Conserving crop plants and plant resources and their associated indigenous and local knowledge

Chester Zoo has displays and interpretation of medieval and herbal gardens – looking at plant use now and in the past.  Glasgow Botanic Gardens has developed a new herb garden and booklet about the ethnobotany of the wild plants of Scotland.  Middleton, National Botanic Gardens of Wales have a ‘Physicians of the Myddfai’ exhibition and programmes promoting medicinal plants.  Chelsea Physic Garden, London, catalogues the ways in which visitors use plants, particularly traditional herbs for medicines.

Target 15 - Capacity building for plant conservation

Thrive, a national horticultural charity, offers a huge range of training course in conservation and horticulture. Cruickshank Botanic Gardens at the University of Aberdeen are used by undergraduate and postgraduate students. The Royal Horticultural Society Garden Rosemoor runs teacher training sessions.  The University of Dundee Botanic Garden holds courses for the general public and Kew runs diploma courses on education in botanic gardens and in techniques for plant conservation.

Each individual who completed this questionnaire was also directly involved with Target 14 (raising public awareness about the need for conservation of plant diversity) and Target 16 (networks established or strengthened for plant conservation activities) as they all worked in education in botanic gardens and were attending a network congress!


The GSPC is an ambitious and important agreement with the overall aim to stop the loss of plant biodiversity.  In order to achieve this goal, many organisations and stakeholders need to work together, focussing their conservation efforts on the relevant targets.  With their plant collections, existing conservation work, education programmes and huge numbers of visitors, botanic gardens have an important role to play in implementing the GSPC.  Botanic garden educators in particular are already doing this with their education provision.  BGCI is keen for botanic garden educators to become involved in the consultations and stakeholder processes currently taking place, and to take these ideas and implications of the GSPC back to their gardens for further consideration and action.


Many thanks to those BGEN members who completed BGCI’s survey on ‘What are your education programmes doing that support the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation?’.


Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (2002) 'Global Strategy for Plant Conservation'

Wyse Jackson, P. (2003), Progress in the implementation of the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation, Botanic Gardens Conservation News, vol. 3, no. 10

Wyse Jackson, P. (2001), Progress towards a Global Strategy for Plant Conservation, Botanic Gardens Conservation News, vol. 3, no. 6


Les plantes forment une part vitale de la biodiversité mondiale ainsi qu’une ressource essentielle pour le bien-être de l’homme. Toutefois, malgré notre dépendance envers elles, le stade de crise est atteint : il est estimé que 60 000 à 100 000 espèces végétales sont menacées à travers le monde.

En 2002 la Stratégie Mondiale pour la Conservation des Plantes a été adoptée à titre légal par tous les gouvernements signataires de la Convention sur la Diversité Biologique. Tout en présentant une série d’objectifs précis, la SMCP apporte un cadre d’actions pour mettre en avant la conservation du végétal, son usage durable, le partage des bénéfices et la capitalisation de compétences au niveau régional, national et local, avec l’objectif ultime de stopper la perte de diversité végétale.

L’objectif 14 de la stratégie implique de « Promouvoir l’éducation et la sensibilisation du public à la diversité végétale. L’importance de la diversité végétale et la nécessité de sa conservation intégrée aux programmes de communication, d’éducation et de sensibilisation du public ». Le Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) est l’organisation meneuse de l’objectif 14 et a travaillé par le biais de consultations afin de produire des objectifs et des étapes pour son accomplissement. Les animateurs des jardins botaniques sont les principaux acteurs dans le domaine de l’éducation à la biodiversité et le BGCI tient beaucoup à leurs contributions.


Las plantas son parte de la biodiversidad mundial y una fuente esencial de recursos para el ser humano. Sin embargo, a pesar de nuestra dependencia de ellas, se ha alcanzado un punto crucial –se cree que que entre 60,000-100,000 especies de plantas estan amenazadas a nivel mundial.

En el año de 2002, se adoptό legalmente la Estrategia Mundial para la Conservaciόn de Especies Vegetales (GSPC) por todos los gobiernos que firmaron el Convenio sobre la Diversidad. Usando un conjunto claro de metas, la GSPC prove una estructura para las acciones a desarrollar referente a la conservaciόn de las plantas, uso sustentable, reparticiόn de beneficios y capacidad de construcciόn a nivel global, regional, nacional, y local, con el objetivo de detener la pérdida de la diversidad de plantas.

El objetivo 14 de la estrategia involucra la ‘Promociόn de la educaciόn y alerta pública acerca de la diversidad de las plantas: La importancia de diversidad de plantas y la necesidad para su conservaciόn incorporada en los programas de  la comunicaciόn,  educacion y alerta publica’. La BGCI (Botanic Gardens Conservaciόn Internacional), es la organizaciόn lider para la meta 14 y ha estado trabajando en consultas para producer tareas y metas parciales  para su alcance. Los educadores en Jardines Botánicos  son los mayors interesados dentro del campo de educaciόn  y la BGCI esta dispuesta a ganar su contribuciόn.

About the Author

Sarah Kneebone is the Education Officer at BGCI, Descanso House, 199 Kew Road, Richmond, Surrey, +44 (0) 20 8332 5954.  Email:  Website: