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07.12.2017

Botanic gardens – popular visitor attractions and best hope for saving endangered plants

Photo: ‘Tree of Life’ © Dr. Patrick Patridge

The leading theme of the RDA Group Travel Expo exhibitions in 2018 is “Magic Nature”. Therefore, it may interest exhibitors and trade visitors alike to know that a study of the University of Cambridge (UK) has found out that the world's botanic gardens contain about a third of all known plants and help protect 40% of endangered species. Scientists say that with one in five of the world's plants on the brink of extinction, botanic collections hold the key to saving rare plant life. In the light of this, it would be fantastic if botanic gardens received increased attention and support from the coach holiday and group tourism sectors – making a sustainable contribution to future life on Earth.

In the first detailed study of plants grown in botanic gardens the University of Cambridge recorded more than 100,000 species. "This is the first time that we have carried out a global assessment to look at the wide range of plants grown, managed and conserved in botanic gardens," said Dr. Paul Smith, Secretary General of the global charity Botanic Gardens Conservation International – the world's largest plant conservation network – http://www.bgci.org/. "For the first time we know what we have and, perhaps more importantly, what is missing from botanic gardens."

Some 500 million people visit botanic gardens each year. As well as being popular visitor attractions, they are centres of learning and education, conducting valuable research and conservation work. The study, published in the journal Nature Plants, identified gaps in the botanic collections of more than 1,000 institutions. Many botanic gardens are in the Northern Hemisphere where tropical species are harder to maintain as they need to be grown in heated glasshouses. Tropical plants are best grown in their country of origin, but there are far fewer facilities in the Southern Hemisphere. Furthermore, only 10% of global collections are dedicated to threatened species, suggesting botanic gardens could do more to preserve some of the world's most vulnerable plants.

Dr. Samuel Brockington of the University of Cambridge is a curator at the university's botanic garden and co-researcher of the study. He said that the global network of botanic gardens was the best hope for saving some of the world's most endangered plants: "Currently, an estimated one fifth of plant diversity is under threat, yet there is no technical reason why any plant species should become extinct. If we do not conserve our plant diversity, humanity will struggle to solve the global challenges of food and fuel security, environmental degradation and climate change."

This all presents wonderful opportunities for wholesalers, coach holiday companies, group tour operators and coach tourists alike to actively assist – in terms of tour planning, tour organisation, trip delivery, financial sponsorships, voluntary contributions, customer awareness and public advocacy measures.

Further information: http://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/worlds-botanic-gardens-contain-a-third-of-all-known-plant-species-and-help-protect-the-most and https://www.nature.com/articles/s41477-017-0019-3.

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Annette Heinemann
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E-mail: presse@rda.de

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