Why you should use plant search
WHAT IS PLANT SEARCH?
Plant Search is the only tool currently available to measure how many of the world's plant species are safeguarded in the world's botanic gardens. An online database, Plant Search allows any organization to easily submit a list of the plants they currently have in their collections. The database compiles information from institutions around the world and cross references with lists of plants known to be threatened in the wild. Currently, over 700 of the world's botanic gardens have provided data to this database, and this compiled information is freely available and searchable online at http://www.bgci.org/plant_search.php/.
Using this tool, BGCI estimates that botanic gardens collectively maintain more than 6 million living plant collections, including over 10,000 of the world’s most threatened plant species. This makes them uniquely suited to act as sanctuaries for threatened plants, and as research centers to understand their growth and survival needs. Plant Search is a tool designed to help botanic gardens and others collectively conserve and research threatened plant species. But it is only as good as the data in it, so we encourage public gardens of all sizes to upload their collections information today so it can start being counted for global conservation. Read more about how BGCI is using Plant Search in its work to conserve and restore species of Magnolia, Oak, and Rhododendron in Sara Oldfield's article in the latest BG Journal (January 2008).
WHY DATA IN PLANT SEARCH IS NOT LINKED TO INDIVIDUAL GARDENS:
To protect the individual collections of rare species, Plant Search does not identify which botanic gardens hold which species. Instead, individuals can utlize BGCI's email tool to send blind requests for information to all institutions who report holding taxa of interest.
THE MANY BENEFITS OF UPLOADING YOUR DATA TO PLANT SEARCH:
Plant Search is a valuable resource for a number of reasons:
- Botanic garden staff will be able to identify the species in their collections with conservation value, and also to assess their collections relative to those of botanic gardens around the world. Click here for one of many reasons why the value of the Plant Search database…“is immense and we should all be encouraged to upload our data to it and use it to evaluate our collections”.
- Uploading your collections information also makes it accessible to a global network of botanical researchers who, through BGCI, will be able to anonymously ask your garden for information or material for any plants you have uploaded to Plant Search. (You can choose whether or not to respond to these requests.) This tool allows your garden to clearly demonstrate the scientific value of your plant collections.
- Individuals working with policy makers and planners can use this as a tool to justify continued and increased support for botanic gardens as centers for plant conservation and research
- Anyone interested in ensuring that a strong safety net exists for threatened plants to guard against extinction will find this tool interesting and useful. Plant Search allows for gap analysis: if a search on any threatened species returns no results, it means that we have no record of it being grown in a living collection. A rare plant that is not in a living collection is more vulnerable to extinction than one that is being protected, grown, and understood in a botanic garden setting.
HISTORY OF PLANT SEARCH
Plant Search was developed by BGCI as a tool to quantify how many threatened plant species are being cultivated by botanic gardens worldwide. It was made freely available and searchable through BGCI’s website in 2005, and is actively expanded and updated by BGCI and botanic gardens. Read more about its release here (PDF file, 880kb).
HOW CAN I ADD MY GARDEN’S COLLECTION INFORMATION?
BGCI encourages botanic garden staff to submit their collections information to Plant Search, and to use it as a tool in assessing the conservation value of their collections and planning efforts on an annual basis.
Uploading information to the database is fast and easy if you have an electronic list of the taxa currently in your living collections. Just follow the PlantSearch Upload Instructions, and please contact BGCI with any questions or comments.