Gardening native plants for species conservation — ScienceDaily
Despite global efforts to protect biodiversity, many plant species continue to decline. In Germany, this includes 70% of all plant species, of which almost a third (27.5%) are threatened, and 76 species are already considered extinct. Much of this loss can be attributed to the decline of natural habitats, partly due to increasing urbanization. Ten percent of the total area of Germany, for example, is settlement area.
However, it is precisely these settlement areas that hold enormous, albeit untapped, potential for nature conservation. After all, these areas include millions of private gardens, balconies and green roofs, as well as parks and other public green spaces. Researchers from iDiv, the universities of Halle and Leipzig and other institutions are proposing to use these potentially available areas for conservation gardening.
This horticultural practice specifically encourages the planting of declining native species. Native plants are plants that occur naturally in their habitat, where they have adapted to specific environments and co-evolved with other species. Although essential to the functioning of our ecosystems, native plants are the most affected by decline and need to be conserved. “Gardeners have always played a role in the distribution of plant species, so why not also help bring back the many native species that are disappearing,” says lead author Josiane Segar, researcher at iDiv and MLU. Public and private gardens and green spaces could play a central role in conserving plant diversity, but this would require a major overhaul of the horticultural industry to achieve this.”
According to the researchers, the economics of conservation gardening, as well as the ability to redesign the industry, already exist. Horticulture is a commercially important sector in many countries: in Germany, for example, 8.7 billion euros were spent on plants in 2018, and the trend is rising. During the corona pandemic, per capita spending on plants increased by 9%, a record. In addition, public awareness of the decline in biodiversity has increased sharply. Planting declining native species would also have obvious benefits. Many of them are adapted to dry soils and are said to withstand droughts due to climate change better than most species currently used in gardening. The authors posit that these factors could lead to an increase in demand for plants suitable for conservation gardening if they could be widely available in garden centers.
The researchers therefore propose that a key approach to promoting conservation gardening would be to create a stronger link between the traditional horticultural industry and the national native seed market. The production and marketing of certified indigenous seeds should be encouraged through financial mechanisms and political support, for example in the form of a reduction in VAT. Product labels in garden centers could help highlight the benefits of conservation gardening and influence the demand curve. Appropriate criteria for awarding public contracts to horticultural companies could also help encourage the use of declining native plant species in public green spaces. Funding applied research to develop regional lists of declining plant species, as well as planting concepts and seed mixes for these species, could foster a science-based approach to gardening. In addition, key actors such as botanical gardens, universities, conservation associations, neighborhood cooperatives and public administrations could disseminate essential knowledge on the cultivation and maintenance of native plants in decline.
“Conservation gardening would facilitate targeted structural change in conventional gardening and horticulture. Large-scale implementation does not require major changes to the existing conservation architecture,” says Dr. Ingmar Staude, lead author from iDiv and the University of Leipzig. “In fact, it uses existing, economically viable structures to encourage the use of declining species when planting green spaces. In an increasingly urban world, this could foster a tangible and inclusive form of conservation. of nature for citizens.”
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Materials provided by German Center for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig. Original written by Urs Moesenfechtel / Sebastian Tilch. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.