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 Plant Sciences, 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.