This program coordinates activities and research in the Department of Botany that focus on plant conservation and endangered plant species. In documenting and understanding changes in plant diversity, the Unit gathers and holds data on the conservation status of plant taxa. It interprets and provides the resulting information to those in a position to effectively utilize it, particularly, the international botanical, conservation and development communities. The Unit also promotes specialist databases needed to (a) monitor changes in plant diversity and plant resources, and (b) promote and achieve the conservation of plants and their habitats globally.
To achieve and enhance these objectives, the Unit directs an information service by responding to requests from a variety of sources for information on world plant conservation, such as scientific specialists, threatened species, and pertinent literature. The Unit provides data on the taxonomy, distribution, and conservation status of plant species; bibliographic information on the taxonomic, economic uses, and conservation of plants; data on sites of high plant diversity and endemism; and data on new and proposed protected areas.
Some of the work of the PCU has been featured in museum exhibits, teleconferences, and classroom lesson plans:
The Biological Conservation Newsletter is a monthly publication of the Department and is mailed free to over 1,200 subscribers in 94 countries. Articles on conservation research and current news items are featured, as well as information on new publications, job announcements, educational materials, and meetings. In addition, the newsletter provides an extensive bibliography of current literature, making the newsletter a valuable resource to the biological diversity and conservation communities.
Plant Conservation: A Natural History Approach (edited by Gary A. Krupnick and W. John Kress, 2005). Natural history has always been the foundation of conservation biology. For centuries, botanists collected specimens in the field to understand plant diversity; now that many habitats are threatened, botanists have turned their focus to conservation, and, increasingly, they look to the collections of museums, herbaria, and botanical gardens for insight. Plant Conservation explores the value of these collections in light of contemporary biodiversity studies. Plant Conservation opens with a broad view of plant biodiversity and then considers evolutionary and taxonomic threats and consequences of habitat alteration; specific threats to plant diversity, such as invasive species and global climate change; consequences of plant population decline at the ecological, evolutionary, and taxonomic levels; and, finally, management strategies that protect plant biodiversity from further decline. With a unique perspective on biodiversity and scientific collections, Plant Conservation ultimately emphasizes the role museums and botanical gardens will play in future conservation.
The 1997 IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants provides baseline information to measure conservation progress and serves as a primary source of data on plant species. Most importantly, it provides the building blocks on which to base worldwide efforts to conserve plant species. Of the estimated 270,000 known species of vascular plants assessed in the compilation of the List, 33,798, or 12.5%, are found to be at risk of extinction. The List is the result of a 20-year effort by a unique coalition of scientists, conservation organizations, botanical gardens and museums. The Red List was published by IUCN-The World Conservation Union and compiled by the World Conservation Monitoring Centre. Conservation assessments were provided by numerous scientists with major input from the Smithsonian Institution, The Nature Conservancy, Environment Australia and CSIRO, the National Botanical Institute (South Africa), Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew and Edinburgh, and the New York Botanical Garden.
Centres of Plant Diversity: A Guide and Strategy for Their Conservation—Volume 3: The Americas, published in 1997 by WWF and IUCN, was prepared under the coordination of the Department of Botany. The ten-year project addressed concerns about the rapid global degradation of natural ecosystems and the urgent need to identify areas of pristine botanical importance. The sites were selected on the basis of floristic studies and the detailed information from over 100 botanists knowledgeable about the region. The volume includes information on species richness and endemism, floristic diversity and endemism by region, and an analysis of the conservation status of each site.
North American Pollinator Protection Campaign (NAPPC) is a consortium of more than 90 affiliated organizations, working to implement, promote and support a clear, continent-wide coordinated action plan to coordinate projects in the areas of pollinator research, education and awareness, conservation and restoration, policies and practices, and special partnership initiatives; to facilitate communication among stakeholders, build strategic coalitions, and leverage existing resources; and to demonstrate a positive measurable impact on the populations and health of pollinating animals. Since its founding, the NAPPC has been instrumental in focusing attention on the plight of pollinators and the need to protect them throughout the tri-national region comprised of the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. The Botany Department has hosted two annual meetings of NAPPC at the Smithsonian Institution.
Plant Conservation Alliance (PCA) is a consortium of ten federal government member agencies and over 225 non-federal cooperators representing various disciplines within the conservation field. PCA works collectively to solve the problems of native plant extinction and native habitat restoration. PCA, a public-private partnership, also serves as a forum for the exchange of ideas, expertise and information between public and private organizations engaged in habitat restoration and preservation. These exchanges take place in various forms of public outreach, including e-mail lists, postal mailings, a Web site, and bi-monthly meetings in Washington, DC.
Plant Talk : The Department of Botany is a sponsoring partner of Plant Talk, a magazine that provides on a world scale information, encouragement, and advice on plant conservation. Plant Talk is a vital and unique source of concise, targeted information for professionals, students and those with a serious interest in plants and the environment. Plant Talk is published quarterly by Plant Talk Ltd, a not-for-profit company supported by seven leading botanical and conservation institutes: Artdatabanken (the Swedish Species Information Centre), the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (created by Conservation International), The Eden Project, Plantlife International, the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, the Department of Botany of the Smithsonian Institution, and the US Botanic Garden.
For more information, contact Gary A. Krupnick.
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