J Syst Evol ›› 2023, Vol. 61 ›› Issue (6): 949-956.DOI: 10.1111/jse.13030

• Review • Previous Articles     Next Articles

The Shenzhen Congress and plant conservation: What have we accomplished in the 6 years since?

Peter H. Raven1*, Zhiyun Ouyang2, Paul Smith3, and Mathis Wackernagel4   

  1. 1 Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO 63017-8402, USA;
    2 Research Center for Eco-Environmental Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100085, China;
    3 Botanic Gardens Conservation International, Richmond TW9 3BW, UK;
    4 Global Footprint Network, Oakland, CA 94612, USA
    *Author for correspondence. E-mail: peter.raven@mobot.org
  • Received:2023-07-10 Accepted:2023-09-16 Online:2023-11-02 Published:2023-11-01

Abstract: At the XIX International Botanical Congress held in Shenzhen, China, in July 2017, the delegates unanimously adopted the Shenzhen Declaration on Plant Sciences in an effort to accelerate the contributions made by plant scientists for the benefit of the world′s changing society. This paper discusses what has been accomplished concerning plant conservation since the Shenzhen Declaration. Beyond the problems we faced in 2017, the global Covid pandemic and the war have presented new challenges. With the massive ecological overshoot, the number of malnourished people globally has increased. Most threats to vascular plants have increased generally over these 6 years, while the responses of the botanical community to them have continued to proceed at a relatively slow pace. Although international cooperation is needed to combat the grave challenges we face, the ease of such collaboration has decreased substantially in recent years. Certainly, rapid deforestation, especially in the tropics, and our ineffective approaches to mitigate climate change will lessen the effectiveness of our strategies to slow extinction. Indeed, our blindness to the reality of ecological overshoot and misperceptions concerning sustainability are accelerating extinction and thus destabilizing social structures and civilization. As an example, conservation in China faces serious challenges with biodiversity loss, but botanical gardens and seed banks there offer hope on ex situ conservation. The botanical and other scientific communities can contribute by drawing the attention of fellow citizens to the gravity of the problems that we face and by being actively engaged in providing solutions and carrying them forward to action.

Key words: conservation, ecological overshoot, extinction, international collaboration, Shenzhen Declaration, sustainability