Australasian Plant Conservation (formerly Danthonia)
Originally published in Danthonia 7(1), June 1998
and the IUCN Species Survival Commission
Chair IUCN Species Survival Commission's Plant Conservation Subcommittee,
Christchurch, New Zealand
About a year ago the ANPC agreed to become a Specialist Group of the Species
Survival Commission (SSC) of the IUCN - The World Conservation Union. The
Commission is a global network linking some 8000 conservation specialists
and enthusiasts through a network of interest groups (Specialist Groups).
Although many are taxonomically based, an increasing number are (like ANPC)
regional in nature. In addition there are several disciplinary groups covering
areas such as invasive species, captive breeding and re-introductions.
The SSC plant programme is coordinated by the Commission's Plant Conservation
Subcommittee (PCS) and its key phrase is `Bringing plants to the heart of
conservation'. The vision of the PCS is `a world where plants lie at the
heart of biodiversity convention initiatives, underpin the implementation
of sustainable development programmes, and attract a greater share of financial
and other resources to their study and conservation'. The PCS itself is
currently made up of eighteen hard-working plant conservationists representing
a wide range of regions, disciplines and institutions. It meets annually
and between meetings members continue to work by email. Wendy Strahm is
the full-time Plants Officer for SSC, based in Switzerland. Important components
of the plant work of SSC are the plant Specialist Groups, of which there
are29, with an increasing number being geographically-based.
What are some of the major issues?
- `Plantlink' Initiative: The focus is to bring plants into other
aspects of conservation, especially that undertaken on animals, with an
increasing focus on ecosystem management - conserving the ecosystems where
plants live, recognising and studying plant-animal linkages such as pollination
systems, and encouraging joint animal-plant meetings.
- 'Top-50' Initiative: A concept developed by Dr Charles Stirton
(previous chair of the PCS), the idea of the 'Top-50' is to select 50
taxa of conservation concern or interest from a wide range of taxonomic
groups, regions and habitats. Pilot schemes are being run for Ferns and
for the Canary Islands, and we are looking at ways of developing the concept
- Sustainable Use Initiatives: The WCMC/SSC Conservation and Sustainable
Use of Trees Project has been completed and a World List of Threatened
Trees is now almost ready for publication. This lists more than 6,000
species, or about a tenth of the world's trees. There are a considerable
number of plant-based sustainable use initiatives under way and we are
looking at ways of linking the SSC network with the best of these. [Ed.
WCMC is the World Conservation Monitoring Centre].
- Red Listing of Plants: The first global listing of threatened
plants, the IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants was launched at several
international sites (including Canberra) on 8 April. The next step is
to assess plant species using the new threat criteria, following their
current review and assessment of pilot project use on a range of plants
and animals. [See page 4 of this issue].
- Action Plans: The Cactus and Succulent Plants: Status Survey
and Conservation Action Plan has been recently published and several plant
action plans are under preparation.
- Information Technology: There are major changes occurring and
we are seeing the advent of meta-database systems which can be accessed
on highly portable equipment in any part of the world. One of our problems
is that much existing software has been biased towards animals and their
particular characteristics (especially mammals and birds). SSC has a number
of initiatives in train at the present time and is maintaining links to
the global Biodiversity Conservation Information System (BCIS) initiative.
We need to be constantly innovative in use of technology and there are
some good examples of this emerging. eg. a recent CD-ROM for the cycads,
which suggests that perhaps all Specialist Groups could be funded to produce
a CD-ROM version of their Action Plans or their 'Top-50' set.
- Regionalisation: We see regionalisation as important, but in
determining which regions are a priority plant conservationists need to
ensure that selected 'biodiversity hotspots' reflect plant interests.
This is where the work of groups such as ANPC is so important.
- Spreading the Word: Apart from the web site, PCS is committed
to doing this through a variety of media. As I write this we are just
finishing a 24 page plant supplement for World Conservation, the flagship
publication of IUCN. PCS has supported in principle new editions of Plants
in Danger - what do we know and Wild Plants and the Law, and we are looking
at greater opportunities to link with local and international conferences.
The Plant Conservation Subcommittee's Web Page address is: http://www.iucn.org/themes/ssc/our_work/plants/indexplants.htm