A new plan was developed and adopted by more than 80 delegates from British and Irish botanic gardens meeting this week at Glasnevin, to conserve all the endangered plant species in Britain and Ireland by 2010.

Meeting at a major conference hosted by the National Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin, all the botanic gardens of Britain and Ireland were responding to a Global Strategy for Plant Conservation adopted by the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity in 2002. The aim of the Strategy is to halt the current and future loss of plant species worldwide.

There are currently almost 200 plant species that are threatened by extinction in Britain and Ireland. Some are critically endangered and in a number of cases survive only in a few botanic gardens, having become extinct in the wild.

Dr Matthew Jebb, Chairman of PlantNetwork*, and Taxonomist at the National Botanic Gardens Glasnevin said “It is extremely urgent that botanic gardens come together to plan their concerted efforts to safeguard Britain and Ireland’s plant species. The adoption of specific targets for what needs to be achieved in plant conservation by 2010 is a very significant development”.

The conference was opened by Dr Peter Wyse Jackson, Director of the National Botanic Gardens, who said “At Glasnevin we are committed to helping ensure that no plant becomes extinct in Ireland over the coming years and to playing an increasingly major role in international plant conservation”.

Botanic gardens conserve threatened plants in their living and seed bank collections and support conservation in the wild through their research programmes and by growing rare plants to return to safeguarded wild habitats. An important aspect of their work is also to raise public understanding of the threats to our native plants and the ways in which we can all help their conservation.

Many plant species endangered in Ireland or elsewhere in the world are included in the Glasnevin collections. Examples include a sedge, Carex buxbaumii, extinct in the wild at its only known site in Ireland, near Lough Neagh, and included since the 1850s in the Glasnevin collections.

* The conference at Glasnevin was organised by PlantNetwork, the plant collections Network of Britain and Ireland.