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Future plant science



Global scale

A paper Botanists of the 21st Century: Roles, Challenges and Opportunities, summarises the recommendations of a conference of botanists held at UNESCO headquarters in Paris on 22-25 September 2014.[1]

At a conference which just a few years ago would have concentrated on the demands of individual fields within botany a much broader perspective was adopted linking to many domains and including an increasing engagement with the general public and engagement with the private sector as ‘an international, intergenerational and participative science that engages citizen scientists and local communities’, a vision of botany as a ‘partnership in conservation, protected area management, horticulture, restoration ecology, forestry, agriculture, education, advocacy, entrepreneurship, social sciences, and communication’.

Botanists support environmental sustainability by seeking a sustainable green economy that protects natural capital.

Key themes

The conclusions of the conference were framed within the environmental, social and economic challenges of sustainability with the twentieth century threats to natural ecosystems, loss of biodiversity, and loss of traditional knowledge as key themes. At the global scale research priorities and policies for botany were related to food security, sustainable agriculture, and biodiversity conservation.

The conference looked at the skills, training and specific botanical expertise needed around the world to meet sustainability challenges as: economically, the building of a sustainable green economy that protects natural capital; environmentally, addressing climate change and environmental destruction, extinction of species, and rapid urbanization; socially, assessing the demands of globalisation, urbanisation, food security, the loss of traditional knowledge and to better appreciate the dimensions of art and culture, man and nature.

UN Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020

Specific strategic botanical recommendations and targets fall under the UN Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 and its Aichi Biodiversity Targets and global initiatives to safeguard plant diversity through the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation and Global Taxonomy Initiatives and support of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. One major target is the completion of the World Flora Online by 2020 as a foundational baseline for global plant knowledge, free-access plant information using the latest technology, promulgation of indigenous knowledge in full compliance with the principles of Free and Informed Consent and Access and Benefit Sharing.

2020 Global Strategy for Plant Conservation

The EuroGard VII Botanic Gardens Congress held in Paris 6-10 July 2015 recognised the contribution of the European Botanic Gardens Consortium and passed resolutions that included the protection and conservation of the world’s flora in accordance with the goals of the 2020 Global Strategy for Plant Conservation, as well as the 196-nation Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020. Also the management of collections in accordance with the articles covering Access and Benefit Sharing of genetic resources under the CBD, compliance with the principles of the recent Nagoya Protocol, and support for the International Plant Exchange Network (IPEN). Biological resources are, on the one hand a common heritage of humankind but the CBD reinforces sovereign rights of nation states over their biological resources. This has in some cases reduced scientific access as extinctions increase, while inventories and fundamental taxonomy ignored.[3]

Botanic Gardens

Among major themes for botanic gardens to consider were: ethnobotany and promotion of traditional knowledge on plants; the threat of invasive species including the pending regulation on Invasive Alien Species; interest in native floras; the identification and early warning for plant diseases and harmful animals; raising awareness of the history of science and botanic gardens; prevention of plant extinction by the use of micro-propagation, cryopreservation and seed banking, expanding work in translocations, transplantations, native seed science and the study of population genetics, and awareness of over -exploitation of horticultural and medicinal plants; engagement with IUCN, CITES, TRAFFIC and others in ensuring legal and sustainable use of wild plants through the promotion of the FairWild standard; awareness of Climate Change including through the International Phenological Gardens network.

Botanic Gardens Conservation International

BGCI in the summer of 2015 initiated a conservation-status Red Listing of European trees. All European non-coniferous trees to be assessed by BGCI and the conifers by IUCN in collaboration with the Conifer Specialist Group. In addition, a substantial number of shrubs were being assessed making a total of 500 taxa, building on our previous work on the Oak, Maple, and Betulaceae Red Lists.

Global Plant Statistics

London‘s Royal Botanic Gardens Kew publishes an annual review of plant statistics a ‘State of the World’s Plants”.[2]



A decadal plan was launched by the Australian Academy of Science on 27 April 2018. Discovering Biodiversity: A decadal plan for taxonomy and biosystematics in Australia and New Zealand 2018–2027. The Academy’s 10-year plan was developed by an Expert Working Group, led by Australian plant taxonomist, Dr Kevin Thiele.

Joining the age of Big Data there are two large propublicly available projects, the  AVH (Australasian Virtual Herbarium), and ALA (Atlas of Living Australia). These two projects provide an inventory of Australasian plants and biota respectively.


A research platform centred on ”omics’ – genomics (DNA sequencing etc.), proteomics (proteins), metamolomics (metabolites), informatics (computation).

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