December 2-17, Cancun, Mexico

Kew supports Mexico in race against time to protect biodiversity

One of the world's leading botanical science research institutions, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, is celebrating 15 years of partnerships aimed at protecting Mexico's biodiversity during this year's Convention on Biological Diversity Conference of the Parties, CBD-COP13, in Cancun from Dec 2-17th.

RBG Kew has been in partnerships in Mexico since 2002, principally with the country's largest wild plant seed bank at the Faculty of Higher Studies of Iztacala, part of the Autonomous National University of Mexico (UNAM) and CONABIO (The National Commission for Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity). To date, the collaboration has resulted in 7% of Mexico's flora being safeguarded in the Seed Bank at FESI-UNAM, each with a duplicate collection also held at Kew's Millennium Seed Bank in the UK - the largest off site plant conservation programme in the world. This equates to 986 Mexican plant species duplicated at Kew's MSB.

On December 2nd at the Business Forum in Cancun, Kew will sign a new agreement with the Mexican Fund for the Conservation of Nature (FMCN) and HSBC Mexico to support a two year project focusing on arid areas in Baja California which are threatened with habitat loss, climate change and invasive species.

Kew's Director of Science, Prof. Kathy Willis, who will be addressing businesses on December 3rd on some of the ways in which they can contribute to global efforts to tackle threats to biodiversity, especially from agriculture, says;

"Mexico is the fifth most mega biodiverse country in the world. It is facing pressures on its ecosystems from agriculture, forestry, fisheries and tourism, leading to rapidly changing land use. We're starting to see some very tangible results from the work we have been doing here for over a decade and we're proud that Kew's world class science and expertise is helping to inform some of the big environmental decisions about what to prioritise and where in order to ensure sustainable ecosystems in the future. We are committed to our existing partnerships and are exploring new ones so we can collectively buck the trends and foster greater collective responsibility for the solutions to the biggest challenges facing our planet."

Solutions include field identification and collection of the wild relatives of commonly used crops that could hold the key to future food supplies in areas under threat of climate change. Some of these plant species which will be stored in Mexico's seed bank may represent sources of new genetic diversity and will potentially be available for plant breeding experiments, contributing to a wide range of beneficial agronomic and nutritional traits.

Kew is also just beginning a four year Tree Project in Mexico that aims to conserve seeds from approximately 300 priority tree species nationally, including endemic, protected and useful plants important for the livelihoods of rural communities. Outputs from this project will also include a database of tree species and a map of tree species 'biodiversity hotspots'. Both will be critical assets when 'modelling' the actual and potential distribution of these important tree species under a changing climate.

China Williams, Senior Science Officer, RBG Kew will be participating in the Science Forum in Cancun and on the UK Delegation at the CBD. Kew's Director of External Affairs. David Cope, Director of External Affairs, RBG Kew will be hosting a side event at the CEPA Fair which hopes to foster a lively discussion with representatives from several other botanic gardens about the wider role they play in communicating, educating and raising public awareness of biodiversity.

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