Plant Rescue!

Plant rescue In-vitro, artificially propagated plants at Kew
p>Professor Peter Crane FRS, Ms Robyn Cowan, Dr Iain Darbyshire, Ms Eve Lucas, Mr Justin Moat, Mr Matthew Mustard, Ms Grace Prendergast and Ms Clare Tenner.
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Preserving global biodiversity is a major challenge for our planet. The millions of species on Earth have evolved complex interactions that allow for mutual survival. Loss of biodiversity through the extinction of plant and animal species threatens life support systems and local livelihoods worldwide. Rescuing and conserving threatened plant species is therefore crucial work.

The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew is a leading world player in the discovery, identification and conservation of plant species and ecosystems throughout the world. 'We are particularly active in the tropical regions', says Kew's director Peter Crane. 'Here plant diversity is at its highest, and we are focusing on areas where there are many rare and highly localised species and where the threats to their survival are highest.'

Kew works with partners from around the world in discovering new and rare species. It has pioneered the use of techniques such as geographical information systems (GIS) to assess the conservation status of individual species and statistical methods to prioritise conservation work by calculating the likelihood of extinction. Conservation projects within the country of origin (in situ) include direct plant protection and community-based promotion of sustainable harvesting, habitat protection and plant conservation. Kew helps to train personnel and provides resources and offers support through schemes such as the Madagascar Threatened Plants Appeal project.

In parallel, projects outside the country of origin (ex situ conservation) take place within the botanic gardens at Kew. Extremely rare species, such as the critically endangered Ramosmania rodriguesii, a close relative of coffee, are propagated using a number of techniques within the micro-propagation laboratory. Kew's Millennium Seed Bank has a crucial role in preserving a store of plant biodiversity for future generations, whilst the latest techniques from molecular biology such as DNA fingerprinting of the genus Coffea offer new routes to recognising biogeographical patterns of diversity, ultimately enabling the identification and targeting of areas of particular value for future conservation projects.

The work of Kew to preserve biodiversity within the coffee family (Rubiaceae) in Madagascar, Cameroon and similarly threaten

Web links