Botanic gardens and arboreta are valuable scientific resources and as a result have become leading authorities in plant conservation, championing projects and contributing to research in the area. The IPSN is an opportunity for gardens to continue this work and contribute on an international scale to the safeguarding of plants from pests and pathogens.
It is estimated that 30-40% of known plant species are grown in living collections of the more than 3,000 botanic gardens and arboreta throughout the world. Often, species are maintained in gardens not in the country or even on the continent in which they are native. These expatriate plants can act as standing sentinels for potentially invasive pests and pathogens. For example, surveying native European plants growing in botanic gardens and arboreta outside Europe, especially in countries with similar climates, offers a unique opportunity to monitor for damage by non-native pests and diseases. This information can then be used to provide an early warning system by informing plant protection efforts such as Pest Risk Analysis (PRA); identifying new pest and pathogen risks to a country’s native flora.
Horticultural staff working within gardens have unique and key skills to offer the project. Not only do they have a wealth of knowledge of the plant species they work with, they are familiar with individuals within plant collections. Specifically staff have an understanding of, or are able to access information detailing, the history of the plant including its origin, general health, management issues, surrounding environment, climate, recent weather etc. This knowledge can provide key clues to the cause of any deterioration of health in a plant; potentially revealing or ruling out abiotic causes.
Further to this, due to their familiarity with collections, they are likely to be able to recognise change in a plants health. Often the cause of change is understood, by the staff themselves, however importantly staff will also be able to recognise when damage is out of the ordinary and should potentially be investigated and escalated.
Find out how your garden can become a member of the IPSN and contribute to safeguarding global plant health here.
Publications of interest
Kramer, A. (2010, June). Using BGCI’s databases to connect plant collections and expertise to support the development of an International Sentinel Plant Network. In Proceedings of the the 4th Global Botanic Gardens Congress, Dublin (pp. 14-18).
Kramer, A., & Hird, A. (2011). Building an international sentinel plant network. BG Journal, 8(2), 3-6.