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Working to achieve the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation

A forest carpet: Bryophytes (mosses, liverworts and hornworts) form a conspicuous component in many ecosystems throughout the world such as this forest in southern Chile. Image Credit: Juan Larrian.

Human induced activities for extensive commercial activities and expansion of developmental activities have led to destruction of vast areas of tropical rainforests and other vital ecosystems.

By Salam Rajesh

Plants are critical to sustaining all life forms on Earth as they maintain environmental balance and ensure ecosystem stability. This assessment forms the basis of a global appeal to formulate a strategy for plant conservation as part of the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, a campaign carried forwarded by the international organizations Plantlife International, Royal Botanic Gardens (Kew), Conservation International and The Global Partnership for Plant Conservation.

Reasoning why the world at large needs specific global plant conservation targets, the international bodies argue that ‘securing a rich and healthy plant diversity in functioning ecosystems is fundamental to the achievement of a sustainable future for humankind where the ecosystem services that plants provide are crucial to our survival’.

In line with the development of the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, and through broad international stakeholder consultations, an updated Strategy for plant conservation is now being proposed. Completely aligned with the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, the Strategy has been expanded and updated as a contribution towards the achievement of the biodiversity targets.

The Global Partnership for Plant Conservation (GSPC) opines that this will be an essential step to continue the momentum of cooperation at all levels for the conservation, restoration, re-introduction and sustainable use of plants at global, regional and national scales.

Twenty years ago, the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) recognized that plants are essential for the functioning of the planet and are vitally important to support human livelihoods. The Parties adopted the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation and counting from 2002 till date, its plant conservation targets guided CBD Parties and the wider conservation community towards many significant achievements.

The push for the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation aims to be clearly identifiable as a contribution towards the achievement of biodiversity targets, says The Global Partnership for Plant Conservation (GPPC). This move can be seen parallel to the initiative on ecosystem restoration of natural landscapes, and biodiversity sensitive pockets, under the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030).

In the briefing of summary for the Parties to the CBD, held earlier this month, the international bodies stressed that ‘Since the notable achievements that followed implementation of the current GSPC targets, there is concern that without a continued specific focus on plant conservation in the post-2020 period, much vital plant diversity and ecosystem quality and function will be lost’.

The international bodies, therefore, say they would mobilize the plant conservation community and support Parties as they develop and implement National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans (NBSAPs). The underlying argument is that ‘Identifying specific and measurable conservation objectives for plant diversity will serve to highlight specific focal areas for plant conservation and will bring a wealth of expertise, data and resources into efforts to implement the biodiversity agenda’.

The global plant conservation strategy and its targets have been ground-breaking in stimulating a broad-based, multi-stakeholder, international and united community, committed to ensuring the conservation and sustainable use of plant diversity into the future.

It has led to a new public awareness on the vulnerability and the conservation importance of plant diversity, and new capacity and networks now flourish at national, regional and international levels, says GPPC and its lobby partners.

The 2020 Review of Progress reported notable achievement, including the assessment that the national plant conservation strategies based around the targets are focusing the work of some of the world’s most biodiverse countries such as Brazil, China, Colombia, Indonesia, Mexico, Philippines and South Africa. Between them, these countries include over 50% of the world’s total plant diversity.

GPPC notes that an online World Flora of all known plants, supported by over 40 institutions working together in the World Flora Online Consortium, is now available and continues to develop, while a growing number of companies use the FairWild Standard to ensure the sustainable sourcing of wild harvested plant-based products from countries around the world.

It further noted that the Global Tree Assessment has completed Red List assessments for all of the world’s tree species and an interactive toolkit is guiding countries in the conservation of crop wild relatives. The African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative and the Great Green Wall initiative are bringing around 100 million hectares of land in Africa into productive restoration.

Biodiversity loss resulting from the destruction of natural landscapes and biodiversity sensitive ecosystems is being attributed to significant decline of plant and animal life. The extinction of species is of concern with specific regards to the existence of various life forms that are within the process of the food cycle, interdependent on one another for their existence, whereupon the loss of plant species can induce food insecurity for both humans and plant-eating animals.

Human induced activities for extensive commercial activities and expansion of developmental activities have led to destruction of vast areas of tropical rainforests and other vital ecosystems. This, scientists and activists have said has contributed largely to the fast extinction of species of both plant and animal life, and inducing chain reactions that are negative in character.

That is the basis for the United Nations to push forward with its decade-long ecosystem restoration drive, urging the world community to work for nature-based solutions in order to restore vital ecosystems with the primary objective of sustaining life on Earth on the one hand while providing solutions to the heated debate on climate emergencies.

Planet Earth is already threatened with weather and climate extremes that have the potential to wreak havoc with both human and other biotic lives – plants, animals, insects, microorganisms – and ultimately leading to extinction of species.

The Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice to the CBD in its meeting during May and June, 2021 urged for the use of the period from 2011-2021, where data is available, as the reference period for reporting and monitoring progress in the implementation of the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, while noting that baselines, conditions and periods used to express different responsibilities, desirable states or levels of ambition in goals and targets should take into account historical trends, historic loss, current status, and future scenarios of biodiversity.

(The writer is a media professional working on environmental issues. He can be reached at [email protected])

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