Gland, Switzerland (IUCN) 12.07.01. IUCN's Species Survival Commission (SSC) is playing a key role in developing a strategy to save Europe's diverse but highly threatened plant life.
Of Europe's 12,500 plant species, some 3,500 are unique to the region. Little native vegetation remains, and plant habitats face a barrage of threats ranging from land drainage and intensive farming, to industrial pollution, development, and a burgeoning tourist industry. Invasive species and excessive use of pesticides and herbicides, as well as over-use of plants for food and medicines have already pushed many species to extinction and many more towards the same fate.
SSC members shared their expertise at the third Planta Europa conference that took place in the Czech Republic recently and resulted in the first draft of the Plant Conservation Strategy for Europe. Planta Europa is a developing network of organisations working to conserve European wild plants and their habitats. Among the SSC team were Chairs of the European Plant; Bryophytes; Lichens; and Fungi Specialist Groups, members of the SSC Plant Conservation Committee, as well as staff.
"A comprehensive strategy is urgently needed to alert decision-makers to the extreme and extensive threats facing Europe's plants", says SSC Plants Officer, Dr Wendy Strahm. "The Czech Republic is striking in that its landscape is far less intensively used than many other European countries. It was refreshing to see huge swathes of wild flower meadows, and many fields red with poppies. The country has also made great strides in reducing pollution which will greatly favour its wild flora," she said.
A core part of the strategy will be Red Listing - determining exactly how many species are threatened in Europe and to what degree. This will be followed by conservation action on the ground, including the identification and management of important plant areas, and solutions to the problems of invasive species and over-intensive farming.
The Strategy will be a practical document for all those involved in nature conservation, containing realistic objectives and targets that are needed to ensure a future for Europe's wild plants and their habitats. It will form the European contribution to the newly-emerging Global Plant Conservation Strategy, to be considered by the sixth meeting of the Conference on the Parties to the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD), in The Netherlands in 2002. The CBD Secretariat is already collaborating with Planta Europa over the development of the Global Plant Strategy.