Strengthen exchanges and cooperation for Asian botanical gardens, building capacity
for biological resources service
In 18-19 October 2014, the 5th Congress of International Association of Botanical Gardens Asian Division (IABG-AD) was held in Nanjing Botanical Garden Mem. Sun Yat-sen, Nanjing China. There were more than 150 delegates from botanical gardens, universities, institutions and non-governmental organizations attended this congress, including 12 countries and regions of China, Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Britain, Canada and Russia. The theme of the Congress is “The role of botanical gardens: building capacity for biological resources service”. The scientific program includes 7 plenary keynote presentations and 32 talks, covered the latest progress in conservation biology of rare and endangered plants, plant acclimatization and diversity, exploitation and utilization of plants, management and construction of botanical garden, as well as public education.
Professor Vernon H. Heywood, the Chairman of IABG and famous plant taxonomist, provided a very important overview of A Global Code of Conduct for Botanic Gardens on Invasive Alien Species and the role of Chinese Botanic gardens. In his tremendous efforts put forwards and foundation made, both European code and horticultural plants accomplished, and the next task is to catalogue global alien invasive plants by botanical garden community. In China, the number of invasive plant species has risen from 58 in 1995 to over 250 today but the figure is probably much higher as result of underreporting and is likely to increase dramatically in the coming decades as a result of the ‘invasion debt’. Botanical gardens is a significant factor and great care needs to be taken to prevent new introductions to the gardens escaping and becoming invasive, and botanical gardens also have an important role to play in informing and education the general public about alien invasive species and the risks that they pose.
Professor Huang Hongwen, the General Secretary of IABG and Director of South China botanical garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences, gave a presentation with the topic of “BGs Living collections: Historic introduction & Domestication vs. Contemporary Ex situ Conservation”. He discussed what we should strengthen the role of botanical garden living collection and emphasized that collections-based researches and conservation practices in botanical gardens are multi-disciplined and multi-dimension in past, present and future. Botanical gardens integrated scientific institutions for many scientific disciplines such as taxonomy, morphology and anatomy etc, most of original research on agricultural or forestry species and plant breeding resources stemmed from plant collection, evaluation and research in the early history of botanical gardens, and continued today. Botanical gardens involved in plant introductions and domestication activities made very important contributions to economically important plants and had rooted in earlier human civilization, and made great contributions for 500 years’ developments for both western countries and China. He introduced the progress and aim of the ongoing project Ex situ Flora of China, and pointed out that living plant collections are the soul of botanical garden based researches and conservation practices, a worldwide inventory of ex situ living collections is urgently needed and should focus future developments towards a goal of a well-documented garden flora worldwide, to enhance conservation management and information service provision to the public, and provision of sound, scientifically-based measures for conservation of plant diversity and sustainable use of plant resources.
Prof. Chen Jin, the Chairman of Chinese Union of Botanical Gardens and Director of Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences, introduced the progress and overall frame work of the program From ‘Zero Extinction’ to ‘Complete Coverage’: A collective Efforts from BG Community for An Effective Conservation to China’s Flora, which was funded by Chinese Academy of Sciences. The main purpose is to effective conserve Chinese native flora and provides some new ideas and stimulating discussion to mitigate extinction of Chinese native plants for full coverage of conservation strategy.
Professor Leonid V. Averyanov, the Vice President of Russian Botanical Society, Komarov Botanical Institute of Russian Academy of Sciences, provided amazing information about world orchid diversity and related habitats deterioration in tropic forests, and pointed out that a worldwide extinction of primary plant communities in tropical and subtropical zones leads in present day to the substantial loss of biodiversity in all subequatorial countries. Which should raise botanical garden community attention for both in situ and ex situ conservation of original flora to cope with current so call the sixth mass extinction worldwide and the botanical garden community should be responsible for the effective conservation and extremely important botanical science mission for future.
Professor Jin Murata from University of Tokyo provided a good summary and great achievements and progress of Japan Association of Botanical Garden (JABG) for past fifty years, as well as good historic information about coordination of JABG with IABG and Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI). Some of good working model in national and regional level should be good examples to be learnt by other botanical gardens.
Dr. You Mi Lee, the Director of Korea National Arboretum, made a comprehensive over review of Korean National Strategy for plant conservation in response to Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (GSPC) and implementations and progresses. She also provided KNA leadership for national and regional implementations to conserve Korean Peninsula plant diversity, which should be a good model for other botanical gardens.
In the final plenary talk Prof. He Shanan, the former President of IABG and honorary director of Nanjing botanical garden, made very clear point about what botanical garden community need keep principals in botanical garden establishment during the rapid phase of botanical garden establishment and diversity and uniqueness of each botanical garden should keep in their master plan and development strategies, particularly in nowadays in China. Otherwise a botanical garden will lost its track and identity and not different from a theme park and public ground. Most importantly Prof. He emphasized both importance of ex situ conservation and evaluation and discovery of useful plants to serve the economy and social developments.
In five parallel sessions, there are excellent case studies to be reported to provide valuable information to be shared among participants.
In session "conservation biology of rare and endangered Plants", several good case studies illustrated good research progresses in Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam and different part of China. Those case studies are encouraging and stimulating to our understanding conservation practices related to reintroduction, restoration and botanical garden management of genetic resource for fundamental basis of both in situ and ex situ conservation purposes.
In session "plant acclimatization and diversity", the presented topics covered not only the classification and evolution of important plant groups, but also the use and evaluation of plant diversity, and involved the cultivation and safety research for commercial horticultural plants. Several case studies explained well the underlining basis ranging from taxonomy issues to ecological safety as well as the disease resistance.
Many good case studies are reported in session “Exploitation and utilization of plants”, projects including excellent Chinese and foreign research cases involved garden merit plants, breeding and functional components analysis of plant resource, which provided us deep thinking on different approaches for better and sustainable uses of ermplasm and genetic enhancement and improvement for biological resources service.
Garden management and new garden design is another focus in session “Management and Construction of botanical garden”, experts from Indonesia, Canada and China presented case studies and ideas on master planning, design and construction of botanical gardens, living collection policies and particularly focus on living plant record and management system, plant introduction and utilization, which put forward many good experience and ideas for common practice to ensure the identity of botanical garden.
In session "Public education", experts from Russia, Sri Lanka and China provided very diverse topics ranging from activities planning, practice of public education to experts training projects. Some interesting activities, such as bird watching in botanical gardens, were extensive interesting and dynamic interaction from different ideas based on different situation, different cultures of different countries.
During the congress, business meeting of both IABG Asian Division and East Asia Botanical Garden Network (EABGN), and IABG Council meeting were held and success to set up new plan for the future. The 5th IABG-AD Council Board was selected and Prof. Hu Yonghong, from Shanghai Chenshan Botanical Garden, China, was elected as the new president of the IABG-AD.
This conference provided a stimulating forum for botanical garden community to address new emerging challenges and opportunities for sustainability and to share knowledge, experience and practice in research, new technology and economy, and to enhance Asian botanical garden collaboration. The local organizing committee is being well geared up and inspiring and informative program. All delegates enjoyed the programs and very dynamic interactions among participants. As what have expected the conference has been very success and generate many good discussions and refreshed good relationships and friendships. The Asian botanical gardens will work closely together as regional botanical garden community and can make a different and a better world.