Conservation work around the world

Conservation work in Ethiopia and Japan

OBGA carries out conservation work in Japan and Ethiopia as part of a wider programme of research into biodiversity hotspots around the world. Globally, thirty-six areas qualify as biodiversity hotspots. They have been defined as areas with the highest species richness or level of endemism, those most threatened, or those with these factors in combination. But species richness alone does not give a complete picture of the significance of a plant community; the value of biodiversity can more be recast more precisely as ‘bioquality’, a term expressing the global rarity of species in a community. Rapid Botanic Survey (RBS) is a methodology, developed in collaboration with botanists at the Department of Biology, for quantifying bioquality. It can inform regional conservation strategies with precision, resolution and practicality.

OBGA’s work in Japan and Ethiopia uses the RBS approach to conservation. In Japan RBS-led conservation work has been carried out in collaboration with partner organisations including the University of Tokyo and Botanical Gardens of Toyama, as well as Bedgebury National Pinetum (Forestry England), and RBG Kew. An important outcome of this work has been the safeguarding of the Chichibu birch (Betula chichibuensis) from near extinction in the wild through developing a seed germination protocol and the establishment of ex-situ conservation collections at OBGA and with partners. Assessed by the IUCN Red List as Critically Endangered in 2014, there were only 21 individuals of B. chichibuensis remaining but recently this rating was reduced to ‘Endangered’ because of the impact of this conservation project. Seed has been banked at the Millennium Seed Bank, RBG Kew, and shared with partners in Japan for reintroduction.

 Rapid Botanic Survey work in Hokkaido, Japan


Conservation work in the Canary Islands

The Canary Islands are a text book region of plant species richness and endemism. OBGA works in collaboration with various partner organisations to examine and document aspects of the internationally important flora of the Canary Islands and identify opportunities for conservation work. Together with local ecologists, our botanists carry out botanical survey work in the eastern Canary Islands and have contributed to community-led efforts to ‘rewild’ brownfield sites around the city of Arrecife using plants propagated from natural populations around the island. This approach to conservation using native species creates green spaces that require little or no long-term intervention, and benefit the mental health and wellbeing of local communities. Together with residents, we have been involved with the creation of an urban restoration garden of native species including the iconic cactoid succulent ‘cardones’ (Euphorbia canariensis), the lavender ‘matorriscos’ (Lavandula pinnata) and ‘veroles’ (Kleinia neriifolia). Future work seeks to conserve a rare population of the parasitic plant Cynomorium on the island of La Graciosa, and augment OBGA’s representation of the Canary Island flora under glass. 

the team after planting the community garden


The team out in Japan in 2018

Click to view videos by Dr Chris Thorogood in Japan.