Royal Botanic Gardens unveils new strategy to tackle biodiversity loss

28th September 2021

The Royal Botanic Gardens (RBG) in Kew has today unveiled a new strategy to tackle biodiversity loss and develop sustainable nature-based solutions to some of humanity’s biggest global challenges.

Specifically, the five-year strategy sets out a series of commitments to boost research into how plants and fungi can address food insecurity, climate change and deforestation.

This builds on more than 260 years of unique scientific experience by the institution as it looks to fulfil its new mission statement, “to understand and protect plants and fungi for the well-being of people and the future of all life on Earth”.

RBG Kew's 350 scientists will focus on this key aim, emphasising that the climate crisis cannot be tackled without halting biodiversity loss.

Professor Alexandre Antonelli, director of science at RBG Kew, said that the next few years provide a “closing window of opportunity” to protect and restore the world's remaining biodiversity.

“The useful properties of plants and fungi are largely untapped and hold the potential to bring equitable benefits to people and nature,” he continued.

“In this new science strategy, RBG Kew lays out an ambitious plan for how we can capitalise on our core assets – our unparalleled living and preserved collections, our world-class scientists and cutting-edge data – to deliver true benefits to people, the environment and the scientific community over the next five years and beyond.”

Five new scientific priorities are set out in the strategy, which include:

1) Ecosystem stewardship: Conducting innovative research into evidence-led protection of biodiversity and ecosystem services, while seeking nature-based solutions to societal challenges

2) Trait diversity and function: Understanding plant and fungal traits, to help conservation, increase resilience to global change, and explore potential benefits for human health and well-being

3) Digital revolution: The large-scale digitisation of specimens and integration of data systems to increase the global value and use of RBG Kew’s collections for science, conservation, and education

4) Accelerated taxonomy: Using new technologies to push the frontiers of taxonomic research, accelerating the characterisation and identification of species

5) Enhanced partnerships: Cultivating current and new scientific, educational and commercial partnerships within the UK and across the world to maximise scientific excellence and on-the-ground impact.

The new strategy comes after RBG Kew was recognised by Guinness World Records (GWR) earlier this month for having the the largest living plant collection at a single site.

Sir Paul Nurse, chief executive of the Francis Crick Institute, and RBG Kew trustee, said: “Kew is not only a beautiful garden it is also a globally respected plant research institute, with a tradition of science stretching back 200 years.

“Its new science strategy aims to understand plants and fungi to create a better world, contributing to the protection of biodiversity, the development of sustainable agriculture, and the investigation of how plants and fungi can help the future of humankind.”

Image credit: Shutterstock

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