Capacity building sessions

Capacity building sessions around key issues on plant conservation will take place the 24th and 25th of October.

There will be three capacity session focused on:

CEPF consultation process to update of Mediterranean Ecosystem Profile incorporating the suggestions of participants will take place the 25th of October.

Plant conservation planning


The abundant wealth of plant diversity, an estimated 391,000 vascular species (plus about 20,000 lower plants) (RBG Kew, 2016), provides the primary production for all life on earth. Yet these critical resources for continued human survival are threatened by human mismanagement of the environment; plant diversity at the habitat, species, and genetic levels is threatened to a degree never seen previously in our planet’s history. Brummitt et al. (2015) estimate 20% of plant species are threatened with extinction and another 10% are near threatened using IUCN Red List criteria.

Plants are particularly vulnerable to climate change as: migration is slow; local adaption may not be able to keep pace with the changing environment; many have long generation times; and there is limited knowledge of each species auto- and synecology.

The aim of plant conservation is to maintain the ecosystem, taxonomic and genetic diversity of plants and the interrelationships between plants, other organisms and their environment. The development of conservation programmes aims to enhance or maintain diversity and halt habitat, species and genetic extinction or erosion. To achieve this goal, involves a clear understanding of the diversity and processes that occur and planning and implementation of practical techniques to achieve taxonomic and genetic stability.

Conservationists, when undertaking a particular conservation planning exercise, use their knowledge of genetics, ecology, geography, taxonomy and many other disciplines to understand and manage the biodiversity they wish to conserve. To conserve the maximum range of diversity found in a species, populations of the species are likely to require protection in diverse locations and in each of these the habitat management set in place that maintains or enhances diversity within and between the target populations.

Plant conservation planning is distinct from other biodiversity conservation planning in the sheer breadth of the taxonomic diversity and the largely unknown range of genetic diversity being targeted.

On the positive side, good taxonomic checklists and distributional data is available, for at least developed country’s flora, and at a global level centres of diversity have been identified so Species Distribution and Climate Resilience modelling can be used to facilitate conservation planning.

Even though little is understood of patterns of genetic diversity within taxa, techniques such as ecogeographic land characterization (Parra-Quijano et al., 2012) and gap analysis are employing ecogeographic distribution as a proxy for genetic diversity and are increasingly used to plan the genetic conservation of plants. Due to the breadth of diversity included planning often involves the conservation of multiple taxa in multiple locations employing a range of in situ (formal protected area / extra PA in situ / on- farm / home gardens) and ex situ (seed storage / in vitro storage / DNA storage / eld gene bank / botanic garden) techniques. For many plant species, particularly those with known socioeconomic value, there is an intimate link between plant genetic diversity, conservation and utilisation.

The model includes a series of steps starting with the full range of genetic diversity for the plant species or group of species to be conserved, through the planning of conservation action, the implementation of the conservation action and leading finally through to characterisation and evaluation as a precursor to utilisation.

The application of this model is at the core of food security, poverty alleviation and the well-being for humankind. As the primary production for all life on earth, plants have a high ecosystem services and economic value, yet their loss or decline in diversity is likely to have severe economic, social and ethical consequences for humankind, so it is critical we prioritize their e cient and e ective conservation planning, only then can we implement those plans and ensure continued and sustainable utilisation.

Specifically, the Plant Conservation Planning Workshop will address: an overview of plant conservation planning; how Important Plant Areas may act as a tool for plant conservation; taxonomic and geographic prioritization for conservation action; ecogeographic surveys and gap analysis techniques; species distribution modelling, climate change and conservation planning; an introduction to an on-line plant conservation planning toolkit; working with stakeholder communities; the content of conservation strategies and action plans, as well as local, national, regional and global level conservation planning.

From ex situ to in situ conservation


The preservation of biodiversity represents a well-established priority in global environmental policies and is a key component of the main international strategic plans (i.e. the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation, the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, and, at European level, the ‘‘Habitats Directive”). However the loss of biodiversity is constantly increasing mainly by the continuous and growing human-related impact (i.e. pollution, global change, industrialization, urbanization and consequent “waste of land”).

The Mediterranean Basin hosts a flora of around 25,000–30,000 flowering plants and ferns, c. 50% of them are endemic plants; in particular the aisled geographically or ecologically territories, such as islands, islets, and mountains, constitute the main centres of plant diversity. However, this plant richness is severely threatened and it deserves particular attention in a conservation point of view.

Ex situ strategies (i.e. conservation of species outside their natural habitats), to date, represents one of the most e ective ways to conserve plant diversity. Germplasm preservation include seed banks, pollen and tissue storage, vegetative cloning and maintaining whole plants, which allows preserving large amounts of genetic material in a small space. Optimistically, ex situ conservation could reach significant levels in the coming years (at least in some territories worldwide) and with accessions representative of natural variability. However, the main question is how to use these accessions for future conservation activities (if necessary).

In situ strategies (i.e. conservation of species in their natural habitats) is considered the most appropriate way of conserving biodiversity and the preservation of the areas where populations of species naturally exist is an underlying condition for their conservation. The importance of in situ conservation of endangered plant species has been highlighted by the Target 7 of the GSPC for 2020 which scheduled that at least 75% of known threatened plant species should be conserved in situ.

Conversely, despite the importance of the in situ measures, their full application remain far from being widely achieved. To prevent the extinction risk of threatened species and to improve their conservation status, translocations have become increasingly important in management worldwide and they represent the ideal scenario although it is not often practicable. Translocations (including population reinforcement, reintroduction and introduction) aim to enhance population viability, for instance by increasing population size and/or genetic diversity. The potentiality of translocations to contribute to the recovery of threatened species is particularly significant when is a part of integrated ex situ and in situ conservation activities. In particular when seeds stored ex situ are the starting point for producing transplants to be reintroduced in the natural environment; the strong integration between in situ and ex situ conservation strategies is the emerging tools in the conservation of plant diversity .

However, many limits remain in the implementation of these conservation actions, such as the high both economic and time costs, the availability of the optimal site, the dificulties on the implementation of these actions on private areas and the high uncertainty of success principally connected to natural stochastic events. Thus, considering these several limitations, it is often necessary to identify other active management measures, such as the fences erection (to prevent grazing and to protect the most critical life-cycle stage for population survival) or to remove alien invasive plants, or to plan a low-cost translocation project. Although the active in situ conservation actions are the best way to conserve natural plant populations, very few experiences has been done in the Mediterranean territories compared to what is necessary to prevent the extinction risk of many plant species. Thus, taking into account the limited available economical funds and human resources, the implementation of the active conservation measures will be the first purposes.

Pastoral management and plant conservation


This farming activity is frequently considered to be a threat for conservation, particularly in areas where poor livestock management and overgrazing prevail, whereas, in other places, conservation efforts are made to preserve livestock grazing, particularly when the abandonment of pasture use is putting valuable habitats and species at risk. This contrast is particularly visible when we compare situations found in the northern and southern rims of the Mediterranean.

In Europe, this type of farming is frequently welcome -and even requested by conservation managers- in areas where targeted grazing can play a valuable role (e.g., wild re prevention or control of invasive species) and more generally, where they are considered to be “High Nature Value farming systems” (HNV), which help preserve threatened species, valuable farmland habitats and essential ecological processes.

The first block of the workshop will be devoted to presenting the HNV farming concept and share experiences from areas where grazing management is being encouraged.

In Northern Africa and part of the East of the Mediterranean, the challenge is completely different. Poverty in rural areas, linked with a much higher dependence on local natural resources for subsistence, maintains a very high “farming pressure” in much of the region. Indeed, the combination of collecting fuelwood, ploughing and grazing intensively produce important impacts on many Important Plant Areas. Addressing these issues calls for tools like the Ecosystem-based approach that IUCN supports, which will be presented and discussed in the second block of this workshop.

In this integrative approach, local people and their use of natural areas are carefully taken into account when developing conservation plans. In the workshop, we will discuss some experiences where alliances for conservation with local populations are being established.

Participants are expected to contribute actively to the workshop with their own experience, successes and difficulties, so as to have lively exchanges on the subject. Inspiring success stories of collaboration between livestock farmers and conservation managers in Mediterranean designated areas are particularly welcome. The overall focus should be set on how challenges have been or are currently dealt with, so that the final debate of the workshop leads to identifying some of the key tools and strategies we all need to address pastoral farming issues and better achieve conservation goals.

Chair: contact details of person coordinating the session

Jabier Ruiz. Commission on Ecosystem Management (CEM-IUCN) and European Forum on Nature Conservation and Pastoralism (EFNCP)

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