The role of botanical gardens in species conservation

Botanical gardens are sanctuaries where plant diversity is celebrated, conserved, studied, and shared. As more species are put under pressure from anthropogenic activities, the importance of botanical gardens in preserving and protecting threatened species is increasing. A recent study on the role of botanical gardens in ex situ plant conservation has emphasized the role these gardens play in maintaining species diversity and continued survival. According to the study, 41 % of endangered species are held in ex situ botanical gardens. Despite this large representation of endangered species, 90 % of gardens are devoted to species not identified as at risk, illustrating the potential to increase the numbers of threatened species with current resources. The study also highlighted biases in species that are selectively kept. Temperate species are preferentially held over tropical species, and vascular plants enjoy far greater representation than non-vascular plants. These biases could directly alter the prolonged existence of endangered, underrepresented species, including threatened tropical species and non-vascular plants such as bryophytes. With particularly the latter representing key stages in land plant evolution, more efforts should be made in protecting these diverse lineages as well. (Summary by Danielle Roodt Prinsloo) Nature Plants 10.1038/s41477-017-0019-3

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