Signing on the line for plant conservation in Chile
In the race against time to conserve the world’s biodiversity, a new initiative will draw on existing partnerships between Britain and Chile, ensuring greater opportunity to protect some of the world’s most diverse and fragile habitats. The formal agreement by Fundación Chilco (FCh) and the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) sets out the strategy for working together in sharing scientific knowledge, practical horticulture, education and community engagement.
Building on long-term links between the two organisations, Dr Paulina Hechenleitner, co-founder of Fundación Chilco, and Simon Milne MBE, Regius Keeper of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, have formally signed a Memorandum of Understanding to set in motion a series of actions ensuring conservation of Chilean plants. These range from reciprocal sharing of scientific and horticultural knowledge to the application of plant propagation protocols to assist restoration ecology and showing the way for innovations in community gardening.
Underscoring the need for this kind of initiative, Paulina Hechenleitner explained:
“As a former student and researcher at RBG Edinburgh, I am delighted to be formalising this international partnership with one of the world’s leading botanic gardens. Rebuilding people’s connection with nature in these times of biodiversity crisis and climate emergency has never been so important for the health of the planet and people’s well-being.
“I am confident that we can engender a better future for the people of Chile by sharing our passion and love for plants and wildlife through engaging with local people, enlisting the help of the best researchers and working with government authorities to make meaningful environmental changes that are so desperately needed in my country.”
The agreement builds on the work of Martin Gardner who, as a key member of the IUCN Conifer Specialist Group and co-ordinator of the RBGE-based International Conifer Conservation Programme, has spent some 35 years working for better understanding of and greater conservation efforts for Chile’s plant biodiversity.
He stressed the need to engage people with the concept of conservation: “In connecting plants with people, sharing horticultural knowledge and skills to help the wider communities of the UK and Chile in local food production, we can encourage healthy lifestyles through environmentally sound practices,” he said. “The key to future sustainability lies in education for sustainability.
“We need greater collaboration in education programmes, in which established experiences and materials can be shared. Training and capacity building along with biodiversity research and cooperation in projects of mutual interest and benefit are achievable and can make a tangible difference.”
Simon Milne concluded by expressing his belief that differences for the better would be forthcoming: “Responding to the biodiversity crisis and climate emergency means accepting the enormity of the challenges facing the planet,” he commented. “We are experiencing vastly accelerated rates of environmental change and biodiversity loss. Addressing these requires partnerships and the sharing of knowledge and resources as never before.
“This new partnership will make its mark by providing training in horticulture, plant conservation and restoration. This can be achieved in classrooms, in the field and online. By sharing existing materials and creating new points of reference for professionals, academics and local communities, we can utilise the channels that work best for the individuals, be it through structured learning, informal courses, the wonders of botanical art or the fun and trials of community gardening, we have the resources – and, more important, the will, to engage at all levels. This is a very exciting moment in our partnership with the plants and people of Chile.”
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