Long before the term “biodiversity” appeared
Long before the term “biodiversity” appeared, botanic gardens were doing activities that are now associated with it.
They participate in the description of new species and the studies carried out on them in order to discover the possible uses in agriculture, industry, horticulture or for research.
Gardens have also historically conserved rare wild plant species (ie, ex situ conservation , that is, outside the natural environment of the species).
The collections of garden plants are certainly reference collections par excellence for their diversity (more than 80 000 species are represented in the collections of the world’s botanic gardens, ie almost one-third of the known plants) and for the documentation attached thereto .
They have become, over time, indispensable databases for taxonomy and the study of biodiversity. The first database on biodiversity was published by a botanical garden. This is the Kewensis Index , a list of vascular plants first published in 1890 and based on the herbarium of the Royal Botanical Gardens in Kew, Great Britain. This Index has become a directory of all named plants and available online under the name of the International Plant Names Index (IPNI).
Documentation in botanic gardens is not just about information about species diversity. There is also a wealth of information on the environment, ecological systems and their sustainability. All this knowledge contributes to botanical and horticultural research and helps to set up biodiversity conventions.
It should be remembered that in some countries, botanical gardens are the first, and sometimes the only, institutions involved in the research, collection, management and conservation of rare plant species in their region, as well as those of interest. for food, agriculture or any other economic applicability.
Botanic gardens were therefore among the first institutions to study biodiversity. By the sum of the knowledge and expertise they have accumulated today, they are leaders in research on both wild and cultivated plants, and in conservation. Many of the new gardens that are open today are designed to act as centers for education as well as for the conservation and study of flora, especially the native species of their region.