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Gran Canaria Declaration on Climate Change and Plant Conservation
In issuing its ‘Gran Canaria Declaration on Climate Change and Plant Conservation’ the Gran Canaria Group, whose membership is drawn from major biodiversity conservation organisations around the world, including botanic gardens, is calling on the international community to take urgent action to protect global plant diversity. The declaration provides specific guidelines for action and recognises the pivotal role of botanic gardens in delivering the conservation message worldwide to their over 200 million annual visitors. Equally important, it says, botanic gardens offer an insurance policy for the future, their collections of wild plants safeguarded as native habitats vanish. Key climate change concerns are also highlighted in the declaration, including the use of natural vegetation in water management and carbon offsetting and the vital defensive work of coastal ecosystems in the face of rising sea levels and extreme weather events. The declaration calls for immediate conservation action to protect plant species most at risk from climate change. And priority must also be given to: The development of more detailed climate change modelling to detect potentially threatened species Implementation of adaptive management strategies in vulnerable ecosystems Sustainable management of existing natural vegetation to maintain carbon stocks and the monitoring of new plantings intended to offset carbon emissions, to ensure their ecological suitability Building on the United Nation’ s successful adoption in 2002 of the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (GSPC), following the first Gran Canaria Declaration in 2000, the group argues for a re-definition of the GSPC to respond more effectively to the realities of climate change. It recommends that the BGCI-facilitated Global Partnership for Plant Conservation (GPPC), which supports and is active in implementing the GSPC, be closely involved in this process. The terrifying implications of plant extinctions for the future of humankind and the wellbeing of the planet simply cannot be underestimated, the scientists believe and time, they argue, is running out. A recent study of four of the world’s most important food crops, rice, potato, peanut and cowpea, predicts that climate change over the next fifty years will have a devastating impact on their wild relatives, which harbour the genetic diversity that may enable cultivated crops to adapt to changing climatic conditions. By 2055, says the research, up to a quarter of all potato, peanut and cowpea species could become extinct and over 50% of the land area currently suitable for their cultivation could be gone.