Trustees and executive leadership of the Center for Plant Conservation (CPC), formerly based in St. Louis, and San Diego Zoo Global leaders met Jan. 29 in San Diego to announce a new partnership that will significantly enhance the efforts of both institutions to preserve the plants of the world.
The Center for Plant Conservation is a consortium of some 40 botanical gardens, which for 31 years have worked together to save the plants of the U.S. from extinction. It has become a global model, building the National Collection of Endangered Plants, which now includes almost 800 of the nation’s imperiled plant species.
“We are excited to be partnering with the Center for Plant Conservation. Our former Applied Plant Ecology Division has been consolidated and restructured under a new Plant Conservation umbrella that will allow us to seamlessly merge our botanical collection planning and plant conservation research efforts with those of the Center for Plant Conservation,” said Allison Alberts, Ph.D., San Diego Zoo Global’s chief conservation and research officer.
“There is no better place for us to consolidate, focus and expand our efforts than here in San Diego,” said John Clark Ph.D., president of the Center for Plant Conservation. “The Zoo and Safari Park are home to one of the most extensive collections of plants anywhere in North America—many of them imperiled—as well as a team of talented and enthusiastic scientists and horticulturists working with plants and their conservation.”
San Diego Zoo Global’s wildlife conservation efforts have long included both plants and animals. The botanical focus of the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research is on sustainability and restoration of native ecosystems, seed science, habitat monitoring and management, plant-animal interactions, and recovery programs for rare and endangered species. Projects link applied research, conservation outreach, education, and capacity-building activities to support conservation and threatened habitats.
“At San Diego Zoo Global, our vision is to lead the fight against extinction. Joining forces with the Center for Plant Conservation has immediately enhanced our reach and standing in the botanical community, and will allow us to further our plant conservation efforts exponentially. It has also served to excite and inspire our staff beyond all expectations,” said Douglas G. Myers, San Diego Zoo Global president and CEO.
The Center for Plant Conservation will now be based in San Diego, with John Clark, Ph.D., serving a dual role as president of the Center for Plant Conservation and director of plant conservation for San Diego Zoo Global. In this capacity, he will lead the Center’s national efforts to save endangered plants by bringing them into cultivation or seed banks (where the seeds can be kept for years at low temperatures), backed up by scientific research, applied conservation and technological innovation. At the same time, he will provide strategic direction for the development of the plant collections at the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park, as well as overseeing the Native Plant Seed Bank and plant research programs.
Joyce Maschinski, Ph.D., is also coming on board as CPC’s director of science and senior plant scientist for San Diego Zoo Global.
About 4,500 of the roughly 18,500 species of plants in the U.S. and Canada are considered to be of conservation concern, with almost 1,000 of them either listed under the federal Endangered Species Act or qualified for listing. Without human intervention, many of them will be gone within the next few decades. For many of these plants, their roles in forming the backbone of ecosystems or in providing useful products for medicine, chemicals or food have not yet been examined properly.
At the signing ceremony, the chairman of the Center for Plant Conservation, Peter H. Raven, Ph.D., observed, “For two such world-class organizations to combine their operations, (this) holds great promise for the future. Personally, I am delighted at the prospects for our shared success.”
Bringing species back from the brink of extinction is the goal of San Diego Zoo Global. As a leader in conservation, the work of San Diego Zoo Global includes on-site wildlife conservation efforts (representing both plants and animals) at the San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, as well as international field programs on six continents. The work of these entities is made accessible to children through the San Diego Zoo Kids network, reaching out through the Internet and in children’s hospitals nationwide. The work of San Diego Zoo Global is made possible in part by the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy and the Foundation of San Diego Zoo Global.