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Last updated: 21 January 2013

EuroGard VI Workshop Summaries

WORKSHOP 01: The Greek Flora: Conservation and Applied Perspectives
(Organised by the Hellenic Botanical Society)
Convenor Costas A. Thanos
Facilitators Panayotis Dimopoulos, Costas A. Thanos, Kyriacos Georghiou


  1. Introduction on the Hellenic Botanical Society (CAT).
  2. The ongoing, collaborative project of the Vascular Plants Checklist of the Greek Flora (PD).
  3. Conservation initiatives, prioritisation and perspectives towards safeguarding the vast, native plant diversity of Greece, either ex situ (Seed Banks and Botanic Gardens) or in situ (in protected or otherwise natural ecosystems) (CAT).
  4. Potential for applications: describing and exploring cases of both direct uses of native Greek plants (e.g. cultivation, culinary, pharmaceutical, floriculture) and less obvious ones (KG).
  1. Upon the completion of the Vascular Plants Checklist of Greek Flora (expected later this year) a new initiative should be launched for the compilation of a Red List of Threatened Plants of Greece.
  2. The novel Red List will use all recent, available lists and resources and has to be an extensive, updated, bilingual (Greek / English) and prioritized (on the basis of appropriate assessments).
  3. It has been noted that for the entire floristic region of East Aegean (which includes Chios Island) no Management Authorities for Natura 2000 sites have been established (while 28 ones exist already for the rest of Greece). It is suggested that at least one such Management Authority be established in the near future.
  4. Several proposals have been suggested for the compilation of lists referring (a) to cases of extinctions as well as rediscoveries of Greek plant species, (b) heavy metal hyperaccumulating plants of the Greek flora and (c) instructions for native plant propagation (where Botanic Gardens can be important players in testing and developing protocols of germination, seedling growth and outplanting).
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WORKSHOP 02: A toolkit for the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation
Convenor: Suzanne Sharrock


A presentation was made on the GSPC toolkit, which is available at The toolkit provides background information on the GSPC and practical information related to the implementation of the 16 targets of the GSPC. The website also provides an area for the Global Partnership for Plant Conservation, the members of which support the development of the toolkit. The main sections of the toolkit include information on implementation of the GSPC at the national level as well as details on how the GSPC targets relate to the 20 targets of the CBD’s Strategic Plan for Biodiversity. At the practical level, information is provided target by target, explaining the background and rationale for each target, some data on the status of implementation and links to a wide range of target-specific case studies, tools and other resources.

The toolkit also include a searchable database of tools and resources, where information can be searched for by language, country, type of resource and target – or combinations of these.

The presentation also explained how the toolkit is in the process of being translated into the 5 other UN languages (French, Spanish, Russian, Chinese and Arabic) and demonstrated the feedback process, allowing users to contribute ideas and additional tools and resources.

Workshop working groups

Following the presentation, the workshop participants split into small informal groups to discuss the linkages between the GSPC targets and the goals of the CBD Strategic Plan. The participants were asked to identify activities in their institutes / countries that were carried out in the context of the GSPC but which also contributed to each of the 5 goals of the CBD Strategic Plan. A general discussion around each Goal was then held. The results of this workshop are provided below.

Goal A: Address the underlying causes of biodiversity loss by mainstreaming biodiversity across government and society
Activity Country Relevant
“Growing the future” National project to teach people about sustainable food production Wales 14
2011 – Biodiversity year. There is a focus on IUCN Red listed species and the establishment of a “Task Force Biodiversiteit” Netherlands 14
Plant diversity teaching is being enhanced in elementary schools Finland 14
Activities organised for “Biodiversity Day” include identifying and counting different elements of biodiversity. The aim is to include as many local people as possible, enhance appreciation of local biodiversity, involve local politicians and present the results Austria 14
Providing biodiversity courses for railway staff and marine staff Belgium 15
Providing international courses on applied biodiversity and tropical botany Belgium 15
Implementation of CITES Finland 11
Provide courses in the recognition of CITES and other endangered species of plants for customs officers Poland 11
Development of programmes aimed at education for schools and the general public Poland 14
Revitalisation of an Alpine botanic garden at a popular site, including the involvement of the local community and politicians at the regional level. This helps to promote the recognition of alpine plants in their natural environment for thousands of visitors Austria 14
Incorporation of conservation actions into national legislation Bosnia and Herzegovina 14
Submissions to the national biodiversity plan on ex situ conservation (using status of ex situ conservation as an indicator) Ireland 8
Public awareness programmes on the causes on biodiversity loss (e.g. Notice Nature campaign) Scotland 14
Development of inventories of useful plants, and live collections of these and the development of environmental education programmes Switzerland 9, 14
The Dutch National Parks Foundation has a ‘kids-site’ with games etc. about biodiversity of the national parks Netherlands 14

General discussion: It was agreed that a lot of the education and public awareness work that botanic gardens do contributes to this Goal. Other activities that were considered relevant were conservation assessments (Red Listing) and raising awareness of invasive alien species. Two suggestions for taking this Goal forward were:

  • Mainstreaming biodiversity in the agriculture, horticulture and forestry sectors
  • Public bodies being required to report on biodiversity achievements.
Goal B: Reduce the direct pressures on biodiversity and promote sustainable use
Activity Country Relevant
Involving citizens in providing species occurrence information (including invasive species) Netherlands 10
Running an organic farm that is also a National Nature Reserve Wales 6
Recent developments in forestry practices to protect biodiversity Finland 6
National strategy on invasive species management published in 2011 – to be adopted by Government in 2012 Finland 10
Special government schemes for promotion of sustainable practices in forestry and agriculture Poland 6
Agricultural research into the cultivation of plants that are harvested from the wild Switzerland 12
Establishment of an invasive species management group Switzerland 10
Finnish protected area system partly designed around ecosystem type Finland 4
National networks to initiate and coordinate invasive species campaigns for the public Netherlands 10
Each botanic garden to implement an invasive species policy for ex situ collections Netherlands 10
Removal of invasive alien species – Gunnera tinctoria and Carpobrotus edulis Ireland 10

General discussion: A number of additional areas were identified as contributing to this Goal. These included:

  • Insufficient identification of important biodiversity areas and lack of knowledge of how to manage these (Slovenia).
  • The need to strengthen linkages between biodiversity and agrobiodiversity conservation and ensure that efforts to conserve agrobiodiversity are recognised in GSPC reporting. Much work on agrobiodiversity conservation is going on globally, and at European and national levels, and this needs to be recognised.
  • Fair trade schemes (and other types of certification) are important for this Goal
  • Environmental impact assessments should be carried out before development is permitted.
  • The need to look at possibilities to cultivate species that are under pressure from over-harvesting in the wild.
Goal C: Improve the status of biodiversity by safeguarding ecosystems, species and genetic diversity
Activity Country Relevant
Active restoration work in National Nature Reserves Wales 4
Research on important areas for plant diversity and application to agrobiodiversity Ireland 5
National survey of ex situ conservation status of threatened plants Finland 8
National ex situ conservation strategy and action plan published Finland 8
Developing displays of endangered vegetation types (pannonian / raised bog etc.) allows ex situ conservation of threatened species and provides materials for research and experience for in situ management Austria 8
Integration of DNA barcoding with traditional research can help with the identification of genetic diversity. Eg. Barcode Wales project Wales 8, 9
Maintenance of a Phaseolus collection (wild beans) Belgium 9
Ex situ conservation in botanical gardens Switzerland 8
Restoration of wetlands and riversides Switzerland 4
Review of records of crop wild relatives distribution Ireland 9
Local biodiversity action plans – species recovery etc. UK 7
Establishing protected areas Bosnia and Herzegovina 4
Collecting and conserving seeds of old agricultural/medicinal plants that are not widely used today Bosnia and Herzegovina 9
Creating a national genebank and identifying endangered species Bosnia and Herzegovina 8, 9
Comparison of genetic diversity between wild populations and ex situ collections for selected plant families in Mexico, Cuba, Peru, Chile and China Belgium 8
Inventory of nationally threatened plants in botanic garden collections Netherlands 8
A Ministry of Agriculture programme for crop genetic resource conservation carried out by 12 research institutions Poland 9
Seed banking of endangered species of Polish flora and a database of the ex situ collections of endangered plants from 27 botanic gardens Poland 8
National and EU programme for in situ conservation of threatened plant species Poland 7
Implementation of Natura 2000 sites Poland 4
Close cooperation with local communities for habitat conservation for climbing hydrangeas in Mexico Belgium 4

General discussion: It was clear that much of the conservation work of botanic gardens contributes directly to this Goal. Such activities include ecological restoration (GSPC T4), species recovery programmes (GSPC T8), projects in conservation biology research (GSPC T3), development of ex situ collections (GSPC T8), identification of key biodiversity sites (GSPC T5) and invasive species control (GSPC T10). Some additional ideas that were raised include:

  • Using traditional methods to protect nature – thus conserving biodiversity as well as the traditional knowledge – Slovenia
  • The need to ensure conservation actions are incorporated into national legislation (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
  • The importance of initiating seed banking of populations of wild flora in countries where this is not yet on-going
Goal D: Enhance the benefits to all from biodiversity and ecosystem services
Activity Country Relevant
Creation of protected areas by ProNatura (a local NGO) Switzerland 4
Promotion of ‘rare and forgotten food plants’ through utilisation Austria 9, 13
In Finland, the peatland protection programme aims at securing ecosystem services alongside protecting biodiversity Finland 4
Restoration of peat bogs in the Scottish border area Scotland 4
“Irelands Generous Nature” – documenting PGR in Ireland Ireland 13

General discussion: It was more difficult for the participants in the workshop to identify areas of their work that relate to this Goal. It was noted that the most relevant area of work is that related to ecological restoration and the new Ecological Restoration Alliance of botanic gardens was therefore considered to be an important contribution to this Goal.
Another where botanic gardens can contribute to this Goal is by encouraging the cultivation of local plant species and their use in producing traditional products.

Goal E: Enhance implementation through participatory planning, knowledge management and capacity building
Activity Country Relevant
The development of a new degree programme in plant biology Wales 15
The UK’s Darwin Initiative UK 15
Documenting ethnomycological knowledge in Benin – in relation to edible mushrooms and tree mycorrhiza Benin 13
Capacity building activities of regional EU projects such as ENSCONET Europe 15
DNA bar-coding of the flora of Wales Wales 1
National red list (plants, bryophytes and lichens) Wales 2
Conservation genetics programme for most threatened species Wales 3
On-line plant atlas developed and functional Finland 3
Regular updates of national Red List Finland 2
National group of researchers “Forum biodiversité” with meetings and publications Switzerland 16
Encouraging the use of (threatened) native plants in public spaces – thus providing amenity value as well as possible ‘corridors‘ for plants in a fragmented landscape. This requires joint planning between scientists, horticulturalists, landscape architects and municipalities Austria 16
National / regional networks of botanic gardens – exchanging knowledge, expertise etc. Europe 16
Inclusion of indigenous groups in planning and implementation of NBSAP Finland 13
National census and Red lists Ireland 1, 2
Graduate and post-graduate training Ireland 15
“Irelands Generous Nature” – documenting PGR in Ireland Ireland 13
Workshops on plant identification and naming Netherlands 15

General discussion: This Goal is another area where botanic gardens are well placed to make a significant contribution. One specific activity is the development of a World Flora on-line – which will not only ensure the achievement of GSPC Target 1, but will also contribute significantly to enhanced conservation through knowledge generation and management. Other areas where botanic gardens have strengths are in training and capacity building for conservation and in networking.

The discussion on this Goal also highlighted the fact that many activities contribute to more than one GSPC Target and to more than one CBD Goal. It is therefore important to take a holistic view and ensure that all relevant activities are taken into account when reporting against targets/goals etc. The workshop also helped participants to understand how relatively small, local activities can fit into the ‘bigger picture’, both in terms of GSPC implementation but also in relation to the broader goals of NBSAPs and the CBD Strategic Plan.

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WORKSHOP 03: Learning about biodiversity and climate change through botanic garden networks and communities of practice
Convenors: Gail Bromley, Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, UK - Julia Willison, Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI), UK – Asimina Vergou, BGCI, UK
Facilitators: Costantino Bonomi, Museo delle Scienze, Trento, Italy. Kristina Bjureke, Natural History Museum, Oslo, Norway. Cristina Tavares, Jardim Botânico da Universidade de Coimbra , Portugal. Suzanne Kapelari, Universität Innsbruck , Austria


This workshop started with a ‘taster’ of an inquiry-based activity on the factors that influence decomposition.

It then continued with a presentation of INQUIRE, an EU-funded project aiming to contribute to the uptake of Inquiry Based Science Education (IBSE) throughout Europe in both formal and informal education settings. 14 botanic gardens and natural history museums in Europe offer the INQUIRE training courses to teachers and educators. The course includes the theory of IBSE, how to use the pedagogy in the school classroom and in outdoor environments and how to improve practice through reflection. The courses’ content focusses on biodiversity and climate change and the participants learn how to teach these topics in an inspiring way by using inquiry-based techniques. 14 pilot INQUIRE courses are currently underway in 11 countries. They are engaging 181 teachers (secondary and primary education) and 57 educators – as a result more than 7,000 students are learning through inquiry in and outside the school classroom.

The strength of the project is that it is being implemented through a consortium of institutions that form a community of practice. Wenger (1998) pointed out that in a community of practice social learning occurs as soon as people who have a common interest in some subject or problem collaborate over an extended period of time to share ideas, find solutions and build innovation. The INQUIRE consortium is a collaboratively working group of botanic garden and museum staff and science education researchers who communicate through face to face meetings, an on-line platform and other media, to make progress by exchanging ideas and resources, building on everyone’s work and appraise good practice. The common goal is to improve inquiry-based learning and teaching skills. Developing and running the INQUIRE courses is not an easy task and several challenges have been identified such as:

  • Recruiting participants (teachers and educators) for the courses- plenty of lead in time is required
  • Running course modules outside during the winter months – teachers are more used to spending time outdoors in the spring and summer months
  • Catering for primary and secondary teachers on the same courses
  • Encouraging teachers to develop new lesson plans – they’re happy to use prepared modules
  • Developing a Community of Practice among the course participants and encouraging reflective practice – this is a new skill in several partner countries
  • Identifying and challenging misconceptions in science held by teachers
  • Differing qualities of assignments presented by teachers and late submissions
  • Engaging botanic garden staff with no education background in the project – IBSE is a new concept to many scientists
The workshop presented as an example how the INQUIRE course is run by the M.V. Lomonosov Moscow State University Botanic Garden, Russia and what the Russian Partner has learned from being part of the INQUIRE consortium:
  • Contemporary ideas and the IBSE methodology, which is ideally suited to lessons in the Garden
  • New educational resources and lesson techniques developed by colleagues in other European gardens and institutions
  • Education systems in consortium-member countries, interaction between botanic gardens and educational institutions (schools etc.), problems and how they are resolved
  • How climate change and biodiversity are taught in different botanic gardens and how the INQUIRE courses for educators are organized.
  • How to encourage school teachers and further education teachers to bring pupils to the botanic garden
  • Ethical standards for working with children, educators and parents during lessons and the ethics of using live collections; how these norms are implemented in different countries.
  • How to work with EU grants and compile the reporting required.
  • INQUIRE website, which we are actively using to publish lesson and presentation resources.
  • Interesting research on climate change and biodiversity conservation in organizations with which our project partners are involved.
After the presentation on the IBSE and the INQUIRE project the workshop continued with a World Café discussion. The World Café is a facilitation method that simulates an informal café for participants to work in small groups to explore an issue through discussion. Discussion is held in multiple rounds and the event is concluded with a plenary. In the INQUIRE World café session participants were seated in groups of 3-4 people and they took part in progressive rounds of conversations of 15 min each on issues related to the uptake of IBSE in botanic gardens. Each round was focused on one particular question.

First round question: What are the challenges for your institutions in developing teacher training on IBSE?

The main points that were raised included:

  • Issues in relation to teachers/educators attitudes and behaviours
    • Teachers can’t appreciate the importance of using real plants in their practice so it will be difficult to encourage them to use living plants to deliver IBSE sessions
    • It is difficult to change teachers’ existing practices-‘Teachers like to speak not to activate’ (didactic pedagogy) and in order to use IBSE they will have to be trained and possibly they do not want to.
    • Getting teachers to overcome their ‘fear’ of teaching science
    • It will be difficult to attract the interest of teachers to register to the INQUIRE course
  • Practical/organisational issues
    • There is a shortage of resources (people, funding, time) in the Education Departments of botanic gardens and it will be difficult to overcome this barrier in order to implement a new pedagogy but also for a botanic garden to develop a teacher training course.
    • Lack of permanent education staff and the need to train volunteers on IBSE
    • The staff of the gardens are mainly gardeners/scientists and it is difficult to explain to them the importance of developing a course on IBSE and implementing IBSE
  • Issues related to the content of the IBSE training course
    • The training course will have to focus on activities related to the school curriculum which can be restrictive and limiting
    • It is difficult for most people to think in an abstract level and this is an important stage in inquiry-based learning
    • Different age groups to address
Second round question: How can staff in botanic gardens collaborate effectively to support inquiry-based education? The main points that were raised included:
  • Communication
    • Botanic gardens educators share case studies, lesson plans and other resources through a data base.
    • Use social media tools to communicate with each other. The simpler the better e.g. e-mail lists
    • Share creative ideas and understanding
    • Learn from each other by asking questions
  • Resources
    • Use the garden living plant collection as a tool
  • Team building
    • Educators in the gardens may organise internal workshops on IBSE for the other garden staff so that they will support from their position the implementation of IBSE in their institution.
  • Gather evidence on IBSE
    • Collect data/evidence of current IBSE courses/activities, record data on good practice
    • Showcase the benefits of using real plants in an education activity
Future actions following the workshop as expressed by the participants:
  • Continue implementing IBSE
  • Develop the education centre in the botanical garden
  • Get colleagues to a workshop on IBSE in August/September
  • Run an INQUIRE workshop
  • Our garden staff participate in an INQUIRE course
  • Think of developing a tool from the botanic garden for the teachers
  • Examine my garden’s education existing practices
  • Give information about the INQUIRE project to my director and education officer
  • Share the ideas of IBSE with the group of educators of all the botanical gardens in the Netherlands
  • Be more creative, enthusiastic, asking questions, activate
  • More explicitly reflect inquiry-based education in my current activities
  • Disseminate information on IBSE and the INQUIRE course
  • Involve volunteers in educational programmes
  • Look at the INQUIRE website
Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, and Identity. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

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WORKSHOP 04: Policies for Combating the Introduction of Alien Invasive Species
Convenor: Vernon Heywood
Facilitators: Matthew Jebb and Magnus Lidén


Professor Heywood outlined the current threats of invasions from botanic gardens in Europe, gave examples of initiatives at a national level and discussed some of the practical issues of combating IAS (how to prevent their introduction; Identification and misidentification; screening existing collections; risk analysis methods; sharing information with other gardens; staff awareness and public outreach).

  • Number of IAS introduced through botanic gardens in Europe is generally small when considered as a proportion, nonetheless, some gardens have been implicated directly or indirectly in the escape of invasive plants from cultivation.
  • Misidentifications of invasive alien species can have serious consequences – harmless species can be confused with harmful invasive species leading to a waste of resources and vice versa, harmful invaders can be mistaken for innocuous species, so called ‘invaders in disguise’ (Marsilea azorica).
  • Dormant risk with the large number of plant species grown in gardens that currently survive outside their optimal climatic conditions in the reduced competition environment of cultivation. Southern Mediterranean and South African grasses may offer the greatest threat yet to the native flora of Europe as these grasses are chosen specifically for toughness and ability to survive greater climatic extremes. Another development that carries potential risks is the expansion of the installation of green roofs and living walls.
  • Various voluntary codes of practice and conduct have been produced:
    • The St Louis Code 2001.
    • Code of Practice for Horticulture (DEFRA 2005, 2011).
    • German-Austrian Code of Conduct for the cultivation and management of invasive alien plants in Botanic Gardens (Kiehn 2007).
    • Council of Europe /EPPO Code of conduct on horticulture and invasive alien plants (Heywood and Brunel, 2009, 2011).
  • Voluntary codes can play a key role in building awareness, encouraging best practice, changing attitudes and encouraging voluntary compliance.
  • Being voluntary, they are easier to develop, modify and disseminate than legally binding instruments and they can be more readily adjusted to meet changing circumstances.
  • Their drawbacks include that they lack specific targets or time-frames and their effectiveness depends largely on how well they are promoted. They need to be carefully monitored with some form of supervisory mechanism, and there can be difficulties in getting the message to some of the key stakeholders.
  • The Council of Europe has commissioned a European Code of conduct for Botanic Gardens on invasive alien species. This has been a joint collaboration of the Council of Europe and BGCI.
Brief overview of the Code:


  • Ensure that all botanic garden personnel are made aware of the issues and problems posed by invasive alien plants and are involved in formulating and implementing the policies adopted by the garden
  • Be aware of which species are known to be invasive in Europe and especially in your country or region and of the risks that they pose
  • Ensure that the Botanic Garden complies with existing legislation and regulations regarding invasive alien species at a national, European and international level and that all relevant staff are made aware of them.
Information sharing
  • Share information with other botanic gardens and other organizations concerned with the impacts or control of invasive alien species
Preventing new invasions
  • Undertake an audit of the existing collections in the Botanic Garden for invasion risk
  • Try to ensure that no invasive or potentially invasive plants are unintentionally introduced into the collections
  • Take great care when disposing of plant waste material from any part of the garden and do so responsibly
  • Take great care in disposing of unwanted stocks of plants
  • Consider adopting the International Plant Exchange Network (IPEN) Code of Conduct
  • If the Botanic Garden produces a Seed List (Index Seminum), ensure that it does not freely offer seed or propagules of invasive or potentially invasive plants
  • Be vigilant and ensure that staff report any signs of invasiveness shown by plants in the public collections and in the nursery areas
  • Do not offer for sale known or potentially invasive species in garden shops or nurseries.
  • Adopt good labelling practices
Control measures
  • Actual or suspected signs of invasive behaviour should be carefully monitored
  • Invasive plants or other organisms should be controlled or removed as soon as detected and confirmed
  • Engage with the public on the dangers of alien invasive plants and their economic consequences
  • Suggest alternative species to invasive plants
Forward planning
  • Prepare for the impacts on botanic gardens in a period of global change
The workshop noted that
  • Target 10 of the GSPC gave Botanic Gardens a responsibility to raise awareness and for National networks to liase with national authorities wherever possible.
  • There were difficulties with regional lists since one country’s endangered species can be another’s IAS. Even lists of species that were problems ‘everywhere’ were illogical.
  • The recipient had to take responsibility Caveat Emptor.
  • Prevention was better than the cure.
The workshop suggested that:
  • Botanic Gardens had a responsibility to conduct research on IAS, including improving the taxonomic understanding of invasive species.
  • There might be merit in devising a regional or international logo for identifying a plant with known invasive traits.
  • The code should be enshrined into national or regional policies.
  • It was important to monitor adoption of the voluntary code.
  • An alert system like the EPPO system could be used to make collection managers aware of new or emerging IAS.
  • There was a need for innovative electronic solutions to enable rapid informing and sharing of knowledge between gardens, countries and regions.
  • A means for gardens to flag up that they have developed a strategy would encourage others.
The workshop concluded that:
  • The Congress should welcome the Council of Europe's Code of Conduct for Botanic Gardens on Invasive Alien Species as an excellent basis for Botanic Garden initiatives.
  • National Networks should take responsibility for raising the issue of IAS amongst their members on an annual basis and in promoting the voluntary code.
  • Alternatives to bad plants: a ‘Green List’ for countries (RHS and Plantlife have developed one such for the UK)
  • Gardens and their Networks should pool best practice examples of Awareness-raising, information sharing, prevention and control.
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WORKSHOP 05: A role for botanic gardens in crop wild relative conservation
Workshop Organizer & Co-Ordinator: Nigel Maxted and Shelagh Kell, University of Birmingham, United Kingdom.
Participants: Maria-Stella Aloupie, Elena Bahzina, Constantino Bonomi, Camille Christe, Natasha de Vere, Maoti Delmas, Sergey Efimov, Tim Entwisle, Inna Filatova, Joachim Gratzfelt, Kate Hughes, Asta Klimiente, Sara Oldfield, Arie Oudijk, Jerzy Puchalski, David Rae, Marie-Stephanie Samain, Rachel Schwartz-Tzachor, Jamila Skruzna, Magali Stitelmann, Joke t' Hart, Cristina Tavares, Alexandru Teleuta, Kostas Thanos, Soultana Valamoti

Workshop aim and objectives

The aim of the workshop was to emphasize and explore the current and potential roles of botanic gardens in the conservation and utilization of European crop wild relative (CWR) diversity.

The specific objectives were to:

  • Define CWR and stress their value as an ecosystem service critical for food security;
  • Introduce the policy context of CWR conservation and use;
  • Outline the current state of the art of CWR conservation and use in Europe and globally;
  • List the current and potential roles of botanic gardens in the conservation and use of CWR;
  • Discuss the suggested roles and explore additional ways in which botanic gardens can aid CWR conservation and use based on the experience and expertise of the workshop participants.
Presentation 1. CWR diversity: underpinning food security in a time of ecosystem change by Nigel Maxted


The presentation defined crop wild relatives (CWR), underlined their value for crop improvement, and highlighted their importance as an ecosystem service. The policy background for their conservation and sustainable use was outlined and progress with their conservation globally and within Europe was reviewed. Relevant CWR projects and networks were introduced.

A CWR can be defined as “a wild plant taxon that has an indirect use derived from its relatively close genetic relationship to a crop; this relationship is defined in terms of the CWR belonging to gene pools 1 or 2, or taxon groups 1 to 4 of the crop” (Maxted et al., 2006). This definition essentially means that broadly speaking, all taxa within the same genus as a crop?or within closely related genera in the case of some crop gene pools (e.g., Aegilops in the wheat gene pool)?can be considered as CWR. Crops can include food, fodder and forage, medicinal plants and condiments, ornamental and forestry species, and industrial crops (e.g., oils and fibres).

Policy context

The need for concerted international action on CWR conservation (and use) is spelt out in the FAO Global Plan of Action for the Conservation and Sustainable Utilization of PGRFA (GPA) (FAO, 1996), Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (GSPC) (CBD, 2010a), International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) (FAO, 2001), Draft Global Strategy for CWR Conservation and Use (Heywood et al., 2008), European Strategy for Plant Conservation (ESPC) (Planta Europa, 2008) and CBD Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011?2020 (CBD, 2010b).

Projects and networks

The aims and products of the FP5 project, PGR Forum ( European forum to debate methodologies associated with the conservation of CWR, with a focus on in situ conservation?were reviewed, as were those of the EC AGRIGENRES project AEGRO ( Products of the latter project included gene pool in/ex situ conservation strategies for Avena, Beta and Brassica and CWRIS-PLIS (Population Level Information System) to combine and harmonize data and facilitate querying. The AEGRO project culminated in the joint AEGRO/European Cooperative Programme on Plant Genetic Resources (ECPGR) In Situ and On-farm Conservation Network symposium, ‘Towards the establishment of genetic reserves for crop wild relatives and landraces in Europe’, which was held at the University of Madeira, Funchal, 13?16 September 2010. The proceedings have been published by CABI (see Maxted et al., 2012).

The FP7 PGR Secure project, which involves 11 partners and commenced in March 2011 for 3.5 years, was introduced. The aim of the project is to research novel characterization techniques and conservation strategies for European CWR and LR diversity, and further to enhance crop improvement by breeders. The research approach is: 1. Novel characterization techniques, including: (1a) Genomics, phenotyping and metabolomics, (1b) Transcriptomics, (1c) Focused Identification of Germplasm Strategy; 2. CWR and LR conservation, including: (2a) Europe-wide CWR inventory, (2b) Exemplar national CWR inventories, (2c) European CWR strategy, (2d) Europe-wide LR inventory, (2e) Exemplar national LR inventories, (2f) European LR strategy; 3. Facilitating breeders’ CWR and LR use, including: (3a) Identifying breeders’ needs, (3b) Meeting breeders’ needs, (3c) Integration of conservation and user communities, (3d) Pre-breeding ? channelling potential interesting germplasm into commercial breeding programmes; and 4. Informatics development, including: (4a) CWR and LR inventory information web availability, (4b) Novel characterization information web availability, (4c) Inter-information system operability. The project was initiated by the ECPGR In Situ and On-Farm Conservation Network and will involve 42 European countries, as well as both large and smaller European plant breeding companies.

The current Adapting Agriculture to Climate Change project is being led by the Global Crop Diversity Trust and is focusing in part on the ex situ conservation of global priority CWR species. The conservation element of the project involves: (a) prioritization on the basis of potential breeding use and listing of gene pools and CWR taxa to collected, (b) the collation of ecogeographic data for the prioritized taxa, (c) ex situ gap analysis using ecogeographic data, (d) field collection of seed samples by the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, CGIAR centres and national PGR programmes, and (e) ex situ seed storage of global priority CWR taxa in national, Millennium Seed Bank, CGIAR and Svalbard gene banks. The initial analysis has found 1,667 priority CWR taxa representing 37 families, 109 genera, 1392 species and 299 subspecific taxa. The taxa are spread through 203 Countries with China having 221 CWR, Turkey 189, USA 152, Italy 139 and Greece 134, but the countries with highest concentration per unit area are Lebanon, Israel, Greece, Portugal, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Syria, Italy, Spain and Turkey respectively (see Vincent et al., in prep.)

Presentation 2. Developing a European CWR conservation strategy by Shelagh Kell


In this presentation, the numbers of CWR were reviewed and a European strategy for their conservation outlined.

Maxted and Kell (2009) estimated that there are >58,000 CWR globally, while in Europe, >15,000 species are native and >8000 are endemic (Kell et al., 2008). In Greece alone, there are >4000 native CWR species. These figures illustrate the point that if we consider a wide range of crop types and a broad definition of a CWR, we are dealing with a very large number of species. How is it possible to conserve them?

Measures need to be put in place for the systematic conservation of priority CWR in situ (within and outside protected areas (PAs)) and ex situ (in gene banks). We can achieve these using two broad approaches:

  • Floristic – conservation of the CWR flora of a defined geographical region (usually a country)
  • Monographic – conservation of a defined taxon or taxonomic group (e.g., a species or a crop gene pool)
Both approaches conclude with CWR diversity being actively conserved in situ in genetic reserves and ex situ in gene banks.

A combination of both approaches is needed to systematically conserve Europe’s CWR diversity. Using the floristic approach, we need to develop and implement national CWR conservation strategies and taking the monographic approach, we need to develop and implement a regional strategy for high priority crop gene pools. By doing so, we will ensure that the highest priority CWR across the region are actively conserved.

Taking a floristic approach, the national CWR conservation strategy begins with the production of the national CWR inventory (or checklist) (data extracted from the CWR Catalogue for Europe and

the Mediterranean (Kell et al., 2005) can be used as the basis). Priority (target) taxa are then selected from the checklist on the basis of a range of criteria, but most importantly, the two criteria: 1) utilization potential (economic importance of the crop and degree of relatedness of the CWR to the crop), 2) threat status. Diversity and gap analysis is then carried out for the target taxa to identify conservation priorities, a conservation management plan is drawn up, and this is translated into complementary (in situ and ex situ) conservation action. In a national CWR conservation strategy, the objective is to maximize the conservation of the taxonomic and genetic diversity of the country’s CWR flora. Diversity and gap analysis leads to the identification of complementary priority conservation actions, genetic reserves are established within existing national PAs (or new reserves established if necessary), and germplasm is collected for conservation in ex situ collections. Progress has been made in national CWR conservation strategy planning in a number of European countries; including Albania, Czech Republic, Cyprus, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland and United Kingdom.

The first step in the development of a priority gene pool conservation strategy is to select the priority crops. Priorities are likely to be food crops (which are important for nutrition and food security), crops of high economic value, and crops with multiple use values. In Europe, priority crop gene pools have been identified on the basis of the first two criteria (see Kell et al., 2012a). There are 185 genera containing human food crops encompassing 5995 species native to Europe. Out of these taxa, there are 19 priority crop genera containing highly economically important crops in Europe, within which there are 279 species native to the region. In addition, there are a further 19 crop genera listed in Annex I of the ITPGRFA containing 207 species native to Europe. Combining these two crop genus sources results in 23 priority crops or crop groups, comprising 486 CWR species native to Europe.

Having identified the priority crop gene pools, conservation strategies for the individual gene pools can be developed following the following basic steps (Kell et al., 2012b):

  1. Delineate gene pool taxa (list taxa in the gene pool and those in the target area);
  2. Select target taxa on the basis of utilization potential (degree of relatedness to the crop/known utilization potential) and relative threat status;
  3. Undertake diversity analysis (geographic information system (GIS) analysis, genetic diversity analysis, complementarity analysis);
  4. Select target sites for in situ conservation (using gap analysis, climate change analysis and on the basis of site suitability);
  5. Identify complementary ex situ conservation needs;
  6. Develop strategy document and lobby for conservation action.
In a priority gene pool conservation strategy, the objective is to maximize the conservation of the genetic diversity of the gene pool. Diversity and gap analysis leads to identification of complementary priority conservation actions, genetic reserves are established within existing PAs (or new reserves established if necessary), and germplasm is collected for conservation in ex situ collections. In Europe, progress has been made in the development of gene pool conservation strategies for the oat, beet, brassica and alfalfa gene pools.
  • Aim to conserve maximum genetic diversity within and between populations of target taxa – choose sites that are most likely to represent this diversity based on results of the diversity analysis.
  • Widespread taxa should not be ignored; for example, Beta vulgaris subsp. maritima is widespread but has traits linked to specific locations.
  • Select sites within existing PAs where possible – however, a balance will have to be met between ecogeographic suitability of sites and feasibility.
  • Establish multi-taxon reserves where possible.
  • Prioritize the selected sites on the basis of conservation of maximum genetic and/or taxonomic diversity.
  • Other factors to consider include land use, potential development pressures, level and quality of site management, legal status, potential conflict with existing site management aims and climate change.
We have the knowledge to develop conservation strategy plans for priority CWR taxa. However, the practicalities of translating plans into practice are less straightforward. One product of the EC-funded AEGRO project ( was the publication of draft quality standards for the conservation of CWR taxa in genetic reserves that include criteria for the establishment of genetic reserves and management considerations to optimize genetic reserve efficacy (see Iriondo et al., 2012). The quality standards are a tool for practitioners involved in the design of CWR in situ conservation strategies, but also for PA managers interested in the in situ conservation of CWR. They may be implemented in the last stage of the process of selecting the locations of a network of genetic reserves (national, regional and global approaches) when multiple alternatives exist according to primary selection criteria (such as genetic diversity complementarity in single-species gene pool approaches or species richness in multi-species gene pool approaches). As the establishment of genetic reserves involves the implementation of active management including demographic and genetic monitoring of the populations, the generation of a set of quality standards for genetic reserve conservation of CWR aims to ensure that conservation efforts are carried out following the most logical and efficient procedures that positively contribute to achieving the objectives. The conservation resources invested in the establishment of the genetic reserves are then more likely to have long-term sustainability. The adoption of standards of good practices relies on the hypothesis that the projects or programmes that are executed this way achieve more rigour in the process of decision-making, and more efficiency in the use of resources and in pursuing the objective of conservation (CMP, 2007; O’Neill, 2007).

The quality standards are a step in the right direction; however, there are a number of other issues that need to be addressed when putting the CWR conservation strategy into practice, including:

  • How to conserve CWR populations outside of PAs?
  • Raising awareness of the importance of CWR and lobbying for action.
  • Assigning responsibility for CWR conservation ? CWR often fall between the remit of environmental and agricultural agencies and thus are ignored in conservation planning.
  • Resources for monitoring and managing CWR populations.
  • Coordinating the national and regional strategies.
  • We have a working definition of a CWR and we know that there are many CWR species so we need to prioritize conservation action.
  • A combined floristic and monographic approach is needed to conserve priority European CWR taxa.
  • Data analysis techniques are available to identify priority CWR populations.
  • We need to lobby for action to establish CWR genetic reserves.
  • Increased efforts are needed to collect and conserve germplasm ex situ.
Presentation 3. Developing a European CWR conservation strategy: roles for botanic gardens? by Shelagh Kell Summary

In this presentation, an assessment of the number of crop and CWR species in cultivation in botanic gardens around the world was outlined and the potential roles of botanic gardens in CWR conservation proposed. Using data extracted from the CWR Catalogue for Europe and the Mediterranean (Kell et al., 2005) and the Plant Search database managed by Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) (a database compiled from lists of living collections submitted to BGCI by the world’s botanic gardens), an assessment of the number of crop and CWR species in cultivation in botanic gardens around the world was undertaken (Kell et al., 2008). Results indicated that botanic gardens may be the storehouses of important crop resources and other species of socio-economic importance. This is likely to be due to a combination of factors:

  • A high proportion of the world’s flora is of socio-economic use
  • Historically, some botanic gardens were physic gardens and therefore almost exclusively housed medicinal plants
  • Some gardens were used as repositories and/or quarantine centres for the early movement of crops around the world
  • Many gardens have educational displays of crop plants to show visitors what they look like and how they grow; for example, coffee, tea, banana and coconut
European CWR conservation strategy: roles for botanic gardens A number of potential roles for botanic gardens in a European CWR conservation strategy were proposed:
  • Botanical expertise: work with PGR national programmes to provide knowledge of the national CWR flora (taxonomy, biology, distribution, ecology, threat status)
  • Passport data: collections data for gap analysis
  • GIS expertise: work with national programmes on diversity and gap analysis
  • Conservation planning: support national PGR programmes in planning complementary conservation
  • Awareness and education: visitor information, publicity and press releases, policy documents
  • In situ conservation: reserve management, population monitoring
  • Ex situ conservation: germplasm collection, storage and regeneration; cultivation in living collections
  • Reintroduction: use of nursery facilities and expertise for propagation, cultivation and reintroduction to the wild
CONCLUSIONS/ACTIONS PROPOSED BY THE WORKSHOP PARTICIPANTS Questions and answers sessions followed presentations 1 and 2 and after presentation 3, the workshop participants divided into two groups to discuss the potential roles of botanic gardens in European CWR conservation. Participants agreed with the proposed roles of botanic gardens listed in presentation 3. In addition, the following ideas were put forward.

Education and awareness

One of the most important potential roles of botanic gardens in CWR conservation is in education and awareness. Botanic gardens have extensive expertise in creating informative and educational public displays about the values and roles of plant species. Displays demonstrating the importance of CWR to the public would be a very useful way of raising awareness. It was suggested that a list examples of CWR used to improve crops that would be suitable for such displays and that would put across a strong message should be produced. Each example should be accompanied by the key information that would be needed to prepare an educational narrative.

Capacity in the policy area

Botanic gardens are used to dealing with policy matters, such as those relating to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and the access and benefit sharing (ABS) issues surrounding the CBD and ITPGRFA. They are therefore well placed to advise on and play a role in CWR conservation policy development and implementation.

Data sharing

Botanic gardens are repositories of a significant amount of data and have the capacity to provide and share data to aid CWR conservation. Botanic gardens could identify the CWR in their collections by cross-checking the taxon names with the CWR Catalogue for Europe and the Mediterranean and the list of global priority CWR produced by the Global Crop Diversity Trust project ( These records could then be coded as CWR in the collections database. The University of Birmingham can provide help to facilitate this process (contact

National responsibility for CWR conservation

It was noted that in most countries, CWR conservation is the responsibility of the agricultural ministries; however, in some countries (e.g., Poland), genetic resources conservation is led by the national botanic garden.

Decentralized CWR conservation

Botanic gardens could take responsibility for the conservation of an agreed number of CWR species. For example, in the UK there are around 250 priority CWR species and around 50 botanic gardens. Each of these gardens could take responsibility for 5 priority species.


BGCI could play a role in disseminating information on botanic gardens and CWR conservation at national, regional and global levels.


Knowledge of potentially interesting traits could be gained from the extensive breadth of expertise within botanic gardens on plant cultivation. For example, which growing conditions to species do well in and which do they die in? This information could be useful to inform formal characterization experiments.

CWR in horticulture

Botanic gardens could play a role in encouraging and facilitating the cultivation of CWR in general horticulture (e.g., in the ornamental and environmental plants industries).

Local community involvement in CWR conservation

Botanic gardens could play a role in educating garden visitors, the general public and local communities in the importance of CWR and help to facilitate sponsorship from companies to support local community CWR conservation initiatives.

Workshops to promote CWR

Botanic gardens could arrange and convene workshops to highlight the importance of CWR and to encourage their possible direct uses (e.g., in cooking).


European botanic gardens have a key and unique role to play in crop wild relative (CWR) conservation and acknowledge this as part of their remit. In particular, botanic gardens can act as a bridge to increase awareness and educate the public on the significance of CWR for food security, and provide scientific expertise and data for planning and implementing in situ and ex situ CWR conservation. To foster this role, it is imperative that collaboration is engendered with botanic gardens by policy-makers and agencies responsible for CWR conservation.


CBD (2010a) Global Strategy for Plant Conservation 2011?2020. Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
CBD (2010b) Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011?2020. Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
CMP (2007) Open Standards for the Practice of Conservation, Version 2.0. The Conservation Measures Partnership.
FAO (1996) Global Plan of Action for the Conservation and Sustainable Utilization of Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
FAO (2001) International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
Heywood, V.H., Kell, S.P. and Maxted, N. (2008) Towards a global strategy for the conservation and use of crop wild relatives. In: N. Maxted, B.V. Ford-Lloyd, S.P. Kell, J.M. Iriondo, E. Dulloo and J. Turok (eds), Crop Wild Relative Conservation and Use. CAB International, Wallingford. Pp. 653-662.
Iriondo, J.M., Maxted, N., Kell, S.P., Ford-Lloyd, B., Lara-Romero, C., Labokas, J. and Magos Brehm, J. (2012) Quality standards for genetic reserve conservation of crop wild relatives. In: Maxted, N., Dulloo, M.E., Ford-Lloyd, B.V., Frese, L., Iriondo, J.M. and Pinheiro de Carvalho, M.A.A. (eds.) Agrobiodiversity Conservation: Securing the Diversity of Crop Wild Relatives and Landraces. CAB International, Wallingford. Pp. 72-77.
Kell, S.P., Knüpffer, H., Jury, S.L., Maxted, N. and Ford-Lloyd, B.V. (2005) Catalogue of Crop Wild Relatives for Europe and the Mediterranean. Available online via the PGR Forum Crop Wild Relative Information System (CWRIS – and on CD-ROM. © University of Birmingham, UK.
Kell, S.P., Knüpffer, H., Jury, S.L., Ford-Lloyd, B.V. and Maxted, N. (2008) Crops and wild relatives of the Euro-Mediterranean region: making and using a conservation catalogue. In: Maxted, N., Ford-Lloyd, B.V., Kell, S.P., Iriondo, J., Dulloo, E. and Turok, J. (eds.), Crop Wild Relative Conservation and Use. CAB International, Wallingford, UK. Pp. 69–109.
Kell, S.P., Maxted, N. and Bilz, M. (2012a) European crop wild relative threat assessment: knowledge gained and lessons learnt. In: Maxted, N., Dulloo, M.E., Ford-Lloyd, B.V., Frese, L., Iriondo, J.M. and Pinheiro de Carvalho, M.A.A. (eds.) Agrobiodiversity Conservation: Securing the Diversity of Crop Wild Relatives and Landraces. CAB International, Wallingford. Pp. 218-242.
Kell, S.P., Maxted, N., Frese, L. and Iriondo, J.M. (2012b) In situ conservation of crop wild relatives: a strategy for identifying priority genetic reserve sites. In: Maxted, N., Dulloo, M.E., Ford-Lloyd, B.V., Frese, L., Iriondo, J.M. and Pinheiro de Carvalho, M.A.A. (eds.) Agrobiodiversity Conservation: Securing the Diversity of Crop Wild Relatives and Landraces. CAB International, Wallingford. Pp. 7-19.
EuroGard VI: A role for botanic gardens in crop wild relative conservation Page 12 of 12
Maxted, N. and Kell, S. (2009) Establishment of a Network for the In situ Conservation of Crop Wild Relatives: Status and Needs. Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome, Italy. 211 pp.
Maxted, N., Ford-Lloyd, B.V., Jury, S.L., Kell, S.P. and Scholten, M.A. (2006) Towards a definition of a crop wild relative. Biodiversity and Conservation 15(8), 2673-2685.
Maxted, N., Dulloo, M.E., Ford-Lloyd, B.V., Frese, L., Iriondo, J.M. and Pinheiro de Carvalho, M.A.A. (eds.) (2012) Agrobiodiversity Conservation: Securing the Diversity of Crop Wild Relatives and Landraces. CAB International, Wallingford. 365 pp.
O'Neill, E. (2007) Conservation Audits: Auditing the Conservation process. Lessons Learned, 2003?2007. The Conservation Measures Partnership.
Planta Europa (2008) A Sustainable Future for Europe; the European Strategy for Plant Conservation 2008–2014. Plantlife International (Salisbury, UK) and the Council of Europe (Strasbourg, France).
Vincent, H.A., Wiersema, J., Dobbie, S.L., Kell, S.P., Fielder, H., Castañeda Alvarez, N.P., Guarino, L., Eastwood, R., Le?n, B. and Maxted, N. (2012) A prioritized crop wild relative inventory to help underpin global food security. In prep.

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Workshop 06: Growing the social role of botanic gardens –towards a new social purpose
Workshop organizers & Coordinators: Julia Willison & Asimina Vergou, Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI), UK
Co-presenter: Eddie Mole, Bristol Zoo Gardens, UK

Growing the social role of botanic gardens is about examining botanic gardens’ purpose and revaluating their mission and policy within a framework of social responsibility. During this workshop BGCI’s work on ‘Growing the Social Role of Botanic Gardens’ which has been continuously supported by the Calouste Gulbenkain Foundation since 2009 was presented. A study commissioned to the Research Centre for Museums and Galleries, University of Leicester, investigated how socially relevant are botanic gardens currently and showed that botanic gardens were particularly concerned with development in seven key areas:

  • Broadening audiences (audience development)
  • Enhancing relevance to communities (meeting the needs of communities)
  • Education
  • Conducting research which has socio-economic impact locally and globally
  • Contributing to public (and political) debates on the environment
  • Modelling sustainable behaviour
  • Actively changing attitudes and behaviour
While there are examples of Botanic gardens internationally that have established their social role within their organizations the research argued that more could be done to make botanic gardens truly relevant to a broader and more diverse audience than they currently attract. The underlying factors that prevent further development in this area have been identified and amongst others include the historical context, lack of capacity and skills, workforce with limited diversity, collections’ focused/inward looking and management hierarchy. On the other hand forces for change which can motivate gardens to consider their social role include the policy context, involvement in wider networks, professionals’ passion and climate change as a social issue.

Following on from this research during 2010 and 2011, BGCI supported three UK botanic gardens to develop their social roles through a programme of workshops and funded, small-scale community projects. Winterbourne House and Garden, part of the University of Birmingham, set up Urban Veg, a community based vegetable garden designed as a two way cultural exchange and learning experience for the Islamic communities of Birmingham and the Garden. Ness Botanic Garden, ran a series of science focused workshops for students from a deprived area of Liverpool. The evaluation of these pilot projects highlighted that what is needed when botanic gardens work on repositioning themselves as socially-engaged organizations are project management skills, team work, skills or experience in working with community groups, and focusing on the achievable and keeping the projects simple. BGCI is now working with four botanic gardens – Bristol Zoo Gardens, University of Leicester Botanic Garden, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and Westonbirt – The National Arboretum – to encourage them to examine their social role and develop a project that addresses a particular social issue or social group. Eddie Mole, from Bristol Zoo Gardens presented during the workshop the 'Bristol Community Plant Collection' project. This is an innovative project in two different ways. It is the first time that a National Plant Collection will be based on an annual plant, Calendula species in particular and it is also the first time that the National Plant Collection will be preserved through community groups which will grow the species in their local environment. The community groups involved in the project vary from a care home and a Community Garden to a school garden club and a sheltered housing.

The workshop continued with group discussions on the barriers that the participants’ organizations may face if they would like their work to become more socially relevant in one of the key areas that were identified by research. The groups also came up with ideas how to overcome the barriers and grow their social role in those areas. Four groups of participants focused on one key area each:

1)Actively changing attitudes and behavior

Description of this key area of work: Botanic gardens talk about the importance of changing the attitudes and behaviours of visitors –and society in general- towards the natural world. Society through the combined effects of industrialisation and urbanisation, has become completely detached from the role that plants play in our lives. One way in which botanic gardens see to convey the relevance of plants to their visitors is through making the connection between their daily lives and how much of what they eat, buy, medicate with and wear is derived from plants.

Barriers identified by the participants:

  • It is difficult to measure the impact of botanic gardens actions to changing people’s attitudes and behaviour
  • Many botanic gardens have an entrance fee and are not open access to everybody. So that limits the audiences botanic gardens can reach to influence their environmental attitudes and behaviour.
  • Achieving change in people’s behaviour can be challenging because different strategies may be needed to reach audience from different cultures.
  • Contact period of the gardens and their visitors is usually relatively short and one-off. It is difficult to achieve change within that limited amount of time.
  • Some gardens in the way they are established they are not models of environmental friendly practices so how can they convince their visitors to change their behaviour if they don’t ‘practice what they preach’?
  • A botanic garden is considered by their audiences as a scientific institution or as a beautiful place to visit so it is not perceived as a place that can instigate change to people’s behaviour.
2)Broadening audiences

Description of this key area of work: Broadening botanic gardens’ audiences is about making their audiences more diverse and representative of wider society – whether by age, ethnicity or socio-economic status. Audience development is about breaking down the barriers which hinder access to botanic gardens and ‘building bridges’ with different groups to ensure their specific needs are met’.

Barriers identified by the participants:

  • For some botanic gardens there are safety issues for children visiting specific areas. There is a need to improve the health and safety.
  • Lack of funding and how the garden areas are established is a barrier for people with physical impairments e.g. people in wheelchairs or visitors with visual impairments
  • Lack of space to develop areas relevant to different groups of the community
  • Lack of technological equipment that will make a visit to a botanic garden more meaningful to specific group audiences e.g. to people with visual impairments

Description of this key area of work: Botanic Gardens provide formal and informal education, from nursery-age children through University students to adults. Education programmes vary from teaching the more traditional science subjects – plant classification, botany, ethnobotany but also sessions that engage with contemporary issues such as climate change, the impact on plant biodiversity, environmental issues, the need to live more sustainably and becoming an active citizen.

Barriers identified by the participants:

  • Families visit the botanic gardens because they consider it as a fun place and they visit the gardens only once. So it is difficult to engage them in educational activities.
  • Botanic gardens are collection focused and their displays are not appropriate to be used as an educational resource. There is a need to make the living plant displays relevant to the education needs
  • Botanic gardens exist because of passionate people not because the government is interested in plants
  • Some gardens experience high level of vandalism
  • Big part of the gardens are closed to the public and they are dedicated only to research
4)Modelling sustainable behavior

Description of this key area of work: Botanic gardens are relatively unique in their relationship with climate change in that they can not only show the impact that it will have upon the natural world, they can model some of the necessary adaptations in the form of ‘sustainable behaviour’.

Barriers identified by the participants:

  • Lack of staff in our and other gardens (not staff at all)
  • Lack of finances/space to be allocate to modeling sustainable behaviour
  • Lack of awareness and interest of the authorities and public. The public has priorities related to their everyday life issues – surviving issues - so people will not be not interested in visiting the gardens and looking at the gardens as models of sustainable behaviour
  • Local and global crisis (financial, environmental, social)
  • Some botanic gardens are regarded as monuments of culture with specific purposes that are not linked to modeling sustainable behavior. So bringing changes in these gardens is difficult as it requires changing established parts that have historical significance.
  • Suggested actions for the botanic gardens to overcome the barriers and become more socially relevant:
  • Increase the accessibility of the gardens for different groups e.g. provide ramps or lifts for people who use wheelchairs
  • Run cultural themed events to attract visitors from different cultural backgrounds.
  • Develop guided tours in more languages
  • Provide funding for groups that come for a disadvantaged background including school groups.
  • Identify what groups of the community are not visiting the gardens and approach them to find out why they don’t see the gardens as a place relevant to them.
Other issues discussed during the workshop

During the plenary of the workshop it was highlighted by some participants that there are botanic gardens that lack of funding and staff and for them it is impossible to undertake a new area of work such as developing the gardens social role. However one of the arguments that were presented in the beginning of the workshop is that there is available funding in the sector of social inclusion which the botanic gardens can start thinking of applying for. Hence the barrier of lack of financial resources could be seen as an opportunity to start looking for funding from sources the botanic gardens haven’t thought of before.

Also, the issue of botanic gardens not having entrance fees was being raised. An example of a botanic garden from Croatia was mentioned which is open access to the public. In one occasion the garden decided to put entrance fees to the temporary exhibition area of the gardens. The introduction of the entrance fees to the temporary exhibition was unsuccessful as it resulted in low visitor numbers for the specific exhibition. An example from the National Botanic Gardens Belgium was provided as the garden is free entrance but there is a small fee for visiting the glasshouses. The low cost of the entrance fee in combination with the services provide as a return for entering the glasshouses has resulted in satisfactory visitor numbers.

In the end of the workshop seven out of the 16 participants of the workshop registered their interest in participating in the future in projects related to growing their institution’s social role.

For more information on the work of BGCI on Growing botanic gardens social role and to access the relevant reports visit:

Also, if you would like to follow the stories of the four UK botanic gardens who are currently examining their social role and are running projects with their local communities addressing a particular social issue visit the blog:

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Workshop 08: Plants and Business
Convenor: Bob Ursem
Co-presenter: Eddie Mole, Bristol Zoo Gardens, UK

Presentation The workshop started with an introduction by Bob Ursem to address first the urgent need for funding of botanic gardens in general. Bob showed a condensed case study of Hortus Botanicus of Amsterdam in the years 1990 till 2001. This example reflects very well a possible consequence for Botanic Gardens and also shows a feasible way out to solve their financial problem. Of course the case of Amsterdam is on its own, but steps or pathways can be used to improve the financial situation.

The main topic of the workshop Plants and Business showed some known and new possible examples that everyone can do or carry out without the back up of an university like the Technical University of Delft. Many gardens do not have access to a technician staff, science staff or a scholar to execute ideas or to implement novel concepts into industry.

Bob showed feasible known examples like mimic tower-building termites for smart heat and energy control in a building (cost reduction), geko tape invention (biomimic), mimic humpback whale flippers saving energy in wind power, swift wings morphing airplane wings, mimic shark’s skins that provided Michael Phelps his gold medal in the Olympics, polar bears’ hollow hairs to tunnel sun power on the black skin and biomimic this into solar panel power, shapes of animals to car industry to crate aerodynamic solutions, mimic the wings of butterflies for modern cell phone and computer screen applications to pure plant based novelties like artificial photosynthesis, Velcro fastners based on burr’s spines, the lotus effect of Nelumbo nucifera leaf surfaces to the 2,500 years use of Chios mastic trees in many products or the electric milking of plants in Delft and spray technologies for plant pest control or Delft – Leiden (Netherlands) research on the use of birch tree (Betula pendula) to create novel bio based wood preservers.

Furthermore very easy applicable and feasible ideas that anyone can carry out like the use of vetiver grass (Vetiveria sisanoides) in erosion control or river/canal bank wave impact reduction on ships.

A special reference was presented of the creative possible novel garden products that lead into business and strengthen the Botanic Garden of Petrozavodsk University, discussed with Alexey Prokhorov during the excursion. The Petrozavodsk Botanic Garden faced an earthquake which created an earth crack in the middle of the garden. A permanent geological observation station was established. The rocks in the crack could be used in a medicinal way and got the interest of the public. The suggestion was to create an educational display and to sell the rocks, obtained at a nearby quarry and keep the geological crack untouched, with information to the visitors in carton boxes.


The discussion starts with examples among the participants of various cases of plants into business in botanic gardens of the participants. In Athens they use diasporae, seeds, of native beloved trees and sell these in the garden shop. A nice example of business to business can be seen on the site: www.DRAGONS

In Greece it is worth mentioning the plant oils and perfumes because of diffusion of moisture and oil mixtures as small micro droplets. These sprays can be sold in garden shops.

Gert Ausloos (National Botanic Garden Belgium) mentioned a project with Coffea arabica and Sanseviera in the garden with a adoption programme by industries. They also develop a special garden label on home-made jam (fruits) in pots and home-made honey from the garden’s bee hives. Furthermore they sell potted plants of Allium ursinum, a common garden weed, as useful plant in food and kitchen. This works really well.

Petr Hanzeka (Prague Botanic Garden) mentioned their own vineyard and own garden wine making. They trade their own brand on several products, like wine bottles, honey in pots, local herbal traditional plants used for medicine and food. They bought a registered trade mark for these products.

Everyone feels that it is not easy to involve industries in projects. Crithmum maritimum could be of great interest for food and also possible products to involve industry in the garden. Local uses of plants can be one of the new initiatives to export these elsewhere. Problems to solve is the legislation by law. In Greece such an approach is impossible, because of legislation. A great new product is the local Agave americana, an alien species in Chios, that is been used for a local liqueur. This product is raised recently with great success and sold on the island as local “AMORGES drink.

In Cleveland Botanic Garden, Richard Piacentini states that they have a programme on community gardens and that they work with kids. The kids create a salsa for food and due to this practical home-made product and education, parents will get involved. Because of that initiative they increase the garden income because of extra entrance fee.

In the workshop is also mentioned the possible use of a data base” “Plants for the Future”. This covers over 3000 species of useful plants that can inspire many gardens to explore possible business opportunities.


Many participants are inspired to set up ideas and at this moment it is too early to come up with concrete topics or steps. This will need more time.

The National Botanic Garden of Belgium, Meise (Gert Ausloos), Prague Botanic Garden (Petr Hanzelka), the National Botanic Garden of Wales (Natasha de Vere) and Botanic Garden Delft University of Technology (Bob Ursem) are willing to cooperate in a new common project that can lead into business.

The topic of plants and business as addressed in Chios, Greece, and the progress of ideas and proposed steps should be addressed at the next Eurogard VII in Paris, France.

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