Assessing botanic gardens' support for integrated plant conservation – with focus on specific threatened Magnolia taxa (Magnoliaceae)
University of Delaware
Magnoliaceae is one of three unrelated Angiosperm plant groups identified as top priorities for conservation research by Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) and its research partners. The focus for these flagship groups is to compare the genetic representation of ex situ collections with in situ populations, to inform and prioritize conservation efforts. Research has shown that only 39% North America’s threatened plants are held in ex situ collections with most taxa only represented in one or two collections. Very little is known, however, about the current use and representativeness of ex situ collections and botanic gardens and other interest groups’ involvement in integrated plant conservation efforts. Three Magnolia taxa native to the USA and Mexico were used as case studies, specifically Magnolia macrophylla var. ashei, M. macrophylla var. dealbata and M. fraseri var. pyramidata. Institutions keeping germplasm were identified via BGCI’s PlantSearch database. Data were collected using an online survey and follow-up communication with institutions to gauge support for integrated plant conservation. Overall results indicated that relatively few collections (11-40%) had wildcollected accessions, with wild-collected material only representing a minority of the remaining wild populations of these taxa. Few institutions (6–26%) interpreted these threatened taxa for visitors and fewer institutions (2-13%) displayed the conservation status. Current and past involvement in wild-collecting efforts was also low (13–20%). Alarmingly few institutions were involved in any in situ conservation efforts such as monitoring of wild populations or habitat preservation/restoration efforts (0–7%). Other observations included insufficient recordkeeping and apparent disparities between institutions’ self-stated conservation mission and their willingness to get involved in integrated conservation efforts for these taxa already in their collections. The results of this and similar studies suggest that much work is needed if Target 8 of the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (GSPC) is to be reached by 2020.