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Botanic gardens launch Ecological Restoration Alliance

The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and botanic gardens around the world signed an historic agreement on 23 May 2012 to restore the world’s damaged ecosystems, responding to urgent global needs for ecological restoration expressed in both the UN’s Convention on Biological Diversity and the Millennium Development Goals.

In 2010 the Parties to the UN’s Convention of Biological Diversity agreed a Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 – a ten year framework for action by all countries and stakeholders to save biodiversity and enhance its benefits for people. The Strategic Plan includes 20 biodiversity targets, of which Target 15 calls for:

“By 2020 ecosystem resilience and the contribution of biodiversity to carbon stocks has been enhanced, through conservation and restoration, including restoration of at least 15% of degraded ecosystems, thereby contributing to climate change mitigation and adaptation and to combating desertification.”

Building global capacity for ecological restoration

Ten institutions have so far agreed to work together to form the new Ecological Restoration Alliance:

  • Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, UK
  • Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, UK
  • Missouri Botanical Garden, USA
  • Brackenhurst Botanic Garden, Kenya
  • Kings Park and Botanic Garden, Australia
  • National Tropical Botanical Garden, USA
  • Rio de Janeiro Botanic Garden, Brazil
  • Instituto de Ecología, A.C. “Francisco Javier Clavijero Botanic Garden”, Mexico
  • Royal Botanical Gardens (Canada)
  • Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI)

Other botanic gardens in China, South Africa, UK, USA and Venezuela are committed to joining or supporting the Alliance. The combined expertise of members will be drawn together to build global capacity for pragmatic yet well-informed ecological restoration. The lessons learned from the initial flagship projects will be applied to other places, enhancing the contribution of restoration to achieving a healthy and sustainable planet. A new generation of practitioners will be trained and guidance provided to industry and governments toward best practices for land restoration.

The unique role of botanic gardens

Professor Stephen Hopper, Director (CEO & Chief Scientist) at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, explained the importance and aim of the initiative:

“At no other point in history have plant diversity and restored habitats been more important for human welfare. This is why the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew has partnered with BGCI to lead the effort to bring together botanic gardens across the world to increase efforts to restore the rapidly disappearing plant diversity on which all our lives depend.

“With our combined expertise in plant diversity, botanic gardens are uniquely positioned to lay the foundation of a worldwide restoration programme that will help ensure plant communities are resilient moderators of climate change.” 

Restoring ecosystems across six continents

The Alliance has ambitious aims, with a plan to restore 100 damaged, degraded or destroyed ecosystems. Restoration projects will be conducted on six continents, drawing on the proven restoration knowledge, capacity and experience of the allied botanic gardens, arboreta and seed banks. The places to be targeted include tropical forests, prairies, wild places within cities, wetlands and coastal sites – ecosystems that are under threat and are no longer able to provide essential services and resources for sustaining human livelihoods and biodiversity.

Ecological restoration projects currently underway around the world include:

  • Beach restoration increases Hawaiian green sea turtle nesting
  • Re-growing Rio
  • Restoring Kenya’s Upland Forest
  • Hyperarid Woodlands in Southern Peru
  • Healing a Surface Mine Site in Western Australia
  • Integrating restoration into Protected Areas management in Madagascar
  • Restoring native habitats of the U.S. Midwest

See the BGCI website for further information on these projects…

Behind the Ecological Restoration Alliance

This ambitious 20 year initiative has been developed by botanic gardens and is facilitated by Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI). Linking more than 800 botanic gardens and other partners in some 120 countries, BGCI is the world’s largest plant conservation organisation.  From grass-roots action to global policy development, BGCI operates at all levels to achieve plant conservation, environmental education and development goals.  With its headquarters located at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, UK, BGCI also operates national programme offices in the USA and China.

About restoration ecology

The Society for Ecological Restoration defines restoration ecology as:

The science that underpins ‘the process of assisting the recovery of an ecosystem that has been degraded, damaged, or destroyed’.

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