Why are some biodiversity policies implemented and others ignored? Lessons from the uptake of the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation by botanic gardens
- First Online:
- Cite this article as:
- Williams, S.J., Jones, J.P.G., Clubbe, C. et al. Biodivers Conserv (2012) 21: 175. doi:10.1007/s10531-011-0174-1
- 287 Views
International agreements and policies play an increasingly prominent role in strategies to combat biodiversity loss. However, conservation policies can only have a conservation impact if implemented. Identifying factors determining the influence of a policy on institutions could improve the process of policy development and communication. We examine how and why botanic gardens have responded to the first phase of a global conservation policy (the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation GSPC) using quantitative (questionnaires completed by 255 botanic gardens in 67 countries) and qualitative (in-depth interviews with five gardens in five countries) methods. We found that while the majority of gardens were aware of the GSPC, older gardens in the global north, and younger global south gardens are most influenced by the GSPC. Gardens that are members of a global botanic garden network and gardens with larger budgets are implementing more targets. Targets implemented tend to be aligned with existing institutional aims. Gardens highlighted an absence of a mechanism to feedback successes and failures. The GSPC has recently been reviewed and new targets for the period of 2011–2020 developed. To widen the influence of the GSPC, dissemination should include guidelines on how institutions could implement the policy, with particular focus on influencing younger global north gardens and older global south gardens. There are plans to develop a toolkit to help gardens better understand and implement the GSPC. We recommend the toolkit include a system for GSPC implementers to communicate with each other and to feedback to policy formulators.
KeywordsBiodiversityCBDConservationConvention on biological diversityGSPCImplementationPolicy
Global Strategy for Plant Conservation
Convention on biological diversity
Botanic gardens conservation international
The threats facing biodiversity are global in scale and increasing (Butchart et al. 2010), meaning that internationally coordinated responses are required (Donald et al. 2007). There are now over 20 global or regional conservation treaties in place, each with its own set of policies intending to influence decisions and stimulate change (Bowman et al. 2011). However, policy formulation is only the first step and to have a positive impact on biodiversity, policies must be implemented. Unfortunately policies are not always effectively implemented (Mosse 2004), or only aspects that are in line with existing institutional aims and preferences are put into practice, so the policy stimulates little real change (Hill 2003). The lack of robust evaluation of the impact of international conservation policies has been heavily criticized (Ferraro and Pattanayak 2006). Improved understanding of the implementation of conservation policies by target institutions would be an important step in understanding, and possibly improving, the impact of such policies.
The 2010 Global Strategy for Plant Conservation targets
A widely accessible list of know plant species as a step towards a complete world flora
A preliminary assessment of the conservation status of all know plant species, at national, regional and international levels
Development of models with protocols for plant conservation and sustainable use, based on research and practical experience
At least 10% of each of the world’s ecological regions effectively conserved
Protection of 50% of the most important areas for plant diversity assured
At least 30% of production lands managed consistent with the conservation of plant diversity
60% of the world’s threatened species conserved in situ
60% of threatened plant species in accessible ex situ collections, preferably in the country of origin and 10% of them included in recovery and restoration programmes
70% of the genetic diversity of crops and other major socio-economical valuable plant species conserved and associated indigenous and local knowledge maintained
Management plans in place for at least 100 major alien species that threaten plants, plant communities and associated habitats and ecosystems
No species of wild flora endangered by international trade
30% of plant-based products derived from sources that are sustainably managed
The decline of plant resources, and associated indigenous and local knowledge, innovations and practices that support sustainable livelihoods, local food security and health care, halted
The importance of plant diversity and the need for its conservation incorporated into communication, educational and public-awareness programmes
The number of trained people working with appropriate facilities in plant conservation increased
Networks for plant conservation activities established or strengthened at national, regional and international levels
Policy implementation research often focuses on America and the United Kingdom. Studies investigating policy implementation in both the global north and global south concurrently are much needed (O’Toole 2000; Behague et al. 2009). Such global understanding is particularly important for policies formulated under multilateral agreements, such as those established by the Convention on Biological Diversity (Siebenhüner 2007). In this paper we critically examine the implementation of the first phase of the GSPC by botanic gardens. We first investigate the influence of the GSPC on botanic gardens and the factors that predict integration of the policy into botanic garden activities. In our study we define ‘influence’ as ‘a change in the activities of the botanic garden’. We then investigate the aspects of the GPSC that are being more commonly implemented. Finally, we look at what, if anything, could help promote the GSPC to target institutions, potentially resulting in increased implementation.
Quantitative data collection
We developed an online survey using Survey Monkey (www.surveymonkey.com, online supplementary material 1) and carried out a pilot study with 10 gardens before refining and improving the questions. The survey was then distributed to all members of Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) by e-mail (n = 505). BGCI is a global network of botanic gardens aiming to mobilise botanic gardens in securing plant diversity and to support plant conservation (BGCI 2011). Botanic gardens were encouraged to respond through articles in BG Journal and Kew On Course Magazine, and presentations at the 4th Global Botanic Garden congress 2010. We also sent the survey to contacts in botanic gardens that are not BGCI members (n = 124).). The survey was sent to either the Director/Curator of the botanic garden. We asked this individual to complete the survey or to pass the survey on to a member of staff with suitable knowledge about the activities of the Garden and the GSPC. The survey was translated and available in five languages (English, Spanish, French, Russian and Chinese). When requested, the survey was also provided in paper format or e-mailed as a Microsoft Word document. These data were analysed and models fitted using R 2.11.1 (R Development Core Team, 2009). The age and region of the sampled gardens were compared to those of all botanic gardens using the Garden Search database, collated by BGCI (2010). The comparisons between age and region indicate the sample provides a good representation of the overall population of botanic gardens globally (supplementary material 2).
To assess the influence of the GSPC on the botanic garden activities, we used a proportional odds logistic model (McCullagh 1980). The response variable was a three level ordered factor measuring GSPC influence-very, fairly or not at all influential. Explanatory variables included were BGCI membership (Yes/No), Global region (North/South), age, budget and primary funding source (Private, University, Government, other). The variable “budget” was converted to the purchasing power parity (ppp) of the country, using data from the Center for International Comparisons at the University of Pennsylvania (Heston et al. 2009). We fitted a set of 17 candidate models to the survey data using the ‘polr’ function in the R MASS package (Venables and Ripley 2002). The most complex model included five explanatory variables and all two-way interactions. Candidate models were compared using Akaike’s Information Criterion (AIC), where the best fitting model has the smallest AIC (Burnham and Anderson 2002).
To investigate the implementation of the 16 GSPC targets we fitted a mixed effects model to the data, using the lmer package (Bates et al. 2008). The response variable was binary and the botanic garden was specified as the random effect. The most complex model included all two-way interactions between predictors and there was a further 20 simplified candidate models. The explanatory variables tested were the targets implemented by each garden, budget, BGCI membership, primary funding source and number of staff. The best fitting model was selected using AIC.
Qualitative data collection
Case study botanic gardens surveyed using semi-structured interviews
Influenced by GSPC
Treborth Botanic Garden, UK
Rajshahi University Botanic Garden, Bangladesh
Royal Botanic Garden (RBG)Tasmania, Australia
Not influenced by GSPC
Kruckeberg Botanic Garden, USA
Succulent Karoo National Botanical Garden, South Africa
The sample of responding botanic gardens
A total of 255 botanic gardens, from 67 countries, responded to the survey (supplementary material 3). The responses included 184 BGCI members and 71 non-BGCI members. Global north botanic gardens tended to have the largest budgets; 60% of global north responses indicated a budget greater than US $250,000, whereas the majority (58%) of global south gardens reported budgets less than US $250,000. 92% of the botanic gardens surveyed stated they were aware of the GSPC. 80% of the Gardens stating they were not aware of the GSPC reported they had at least one conservation activity in their garden.
The influence of the GSPC on botanic gardens and the factors predicting influence on garden activities
The fact that not all gardens are influenced by the GSPC is supported by the interviews. For example in one garden, senior staff are not aware of its existence (quote 6).
“Part of our role as a botanic garden is conservation, and we use the GSPC to focus our efforts”—Deputy Director, Collections and Research, Tasmania RBG [Quote 1]
“From my point of view, it wouldn’t be exaggerating to say it [the GSPC] is the raison d’être, it’s the blue print for what we do”—Curator, Treborth Botanic Garden [Quote 2]
“We’ve developed a plant conservation policy built around the GSPC and around local conservation priorities”—Horticultural Collections Manager, Tasmania RBG [Quote 3]
“We initiated a discussion earlier this week just to look at the [2011–2020] targets, to see what we thought about them and how we thought they could be reached, which were achievable and how we were operating currently against them. It was very valuable to sit down and talk about what we are doing”—Deputy Director, Collections and Research, Tasmania RBG [Quote 4]
“The GSPC helps to motivate our bureaucrats to look more at plant conservation”—Prof. of Botany, Rajshahi University Botanic Garden [Quote 5]
For the assessment of GSPC influence on botanic garden activities the best model (based on the lowest AIC) is presented in Table 3. Parameters included in this model show that BGCI membership, global north/global south, age, budget and two interaction terms are important predictors of the influence of the GSPC upon botanic garden activities. The coefficient for global north and south countries indicates that global south countries are more likely to be influenced by the GSPC. The model suggests that age is an important predictor of whether the garden is influenced by the GSPC. The interaction between the main effects, age and global region, is significant (P < 0.05) suggesting that older botanic gardens in the global north are mostly likely to find the GSPC very influential on their activities, whereas younger botanic gardens in the global south are more likely to find the GSPC very influential (Fig. 1).
“To be honest, this is the first time I have heard of it [the GSPC]”—Collections Manager, Succulent Karoo National Botanical Garden [Quote 6]
The influence of the GSPC on botanic garden activities, summary of the most supported model
Budget (PPP corrected)
“I learnt about the GSPC by e-mail from Kew and then looked more on [the] internet”—Prof. of Botany, Rajshahi University Botanic Garden [Quote 7]
Which aspects of the GPSC are being more commonly implemented and why?
Gardens that are BGCI members are more likely to be implementing the GSPC targets (Fig. 2). This may be because BGCI membership is a mechanism of disseminating information about the GSPC, as was suggested by interviews with gardens (quote 10)
“We can actually contribute to the majority of these [GSPC targets] albeit on a small scale but as a University garden, education is a priority”—Curator, Treborth Botanic Garden [Quote 8]
“From a horticulture perspective we’re not just growing plants for display purpose, they [the plants] are now involved in the conservation work”—Horticultural Collections Manager, Tasmania RBG [Quote 9]
The size of a garden’s budget is also important: gardens with larger budgets report that they are implementing more GSPC targets than gardens with lower budgets. Again this is supported by the qualitative data as gardens themselves often cite lack of financial resources as an important limitation on their ability to implement GSPC targets (quotes 11 and 12).
“The Garden used to be a member of BGCI, which is how we heard of it [the GSPC]”—Director Kruckeberg Botanic Garden [Quote 10]
“I realised I can do something for the GPSC and it is within my capacity….. but our financial resources are very limited”—Prof. of Botany, Rajshahi University Botanic Garden [Quote 11]
“We are a really small place and have limited resources to get involved, this is the main reason we are not involved in it”—Director Kruckeberg Botanic Garden [Quote 12]
What could improve the influence of the GSPC on gardens?
“We’ve attended a few conferences and workshops but other than that, we don’t really feedback our activities”—Curator, Treborth Botanic Garden [Quote 13]However, such feedback processes need to be carefully designed to avoid over burdening the botanic gardens.
“There is no system for us to feedback what we are doing. People are working in isolation. That could be improved. Create a network, this is most important”—Prof. of Botany, Rajshahi University Botanic Garden [Quote 14]
“If there was nice simple process, like a survey or something, we would have the time to report back, it depends on the mechanism really”—Deputy Director, Collections and Research, Tasmania RBG [Quote 15]
Evaluation of where and how a biodiversity policy has or has not been implemented is valuable as such information could be used to improve the design and communication of future policies to increase their conservation impact (Siebenhüner 2002). In this paper we have investigated the factors restricting the influence and implementation of a particular conservation policy, with the aim that this understanding can be used to improve future policy making processes.
Has the GSPC influenced botanic garden activities?
Ensuring implementing institutions are aware of a policy is clearly a necessity for effective implementation. One botanic garden interviewed indicated the GSPC had no influence on their conservation activities because they had not heard of the policy. As our results show that gardens not aware of the GSPC are still carrying out conservation activities. Individual garden policies and strategies may already have conservation as an objective and so even with no knowledge of the GSPC these gardens are contributing to the GSPC targets. However, over 90% of the gardens included in the study are aware of the GSPC, indicating that the existence of the policy has been well disseminated. However, effective dissemination is about more than ensuring target institutions have heard of a policy but should provide guidance on interpreting the text and putting it into action (Hill 2003). Accessible and concise information about how institutions can respond to a policy is important and, in the context of the GSPC may result in increased implementation. The recent development of a concise ‘2011–2020 GSPC factsheet’ (IUCN 2011) should go some way to addressing the need for wider communication about the aims of the GSPC and possible responses by botanic gardens.
Approaches to promoting policy implementation have generally been developed in a western context (O’Toole 2000; Behague et al. 2009), perhaps with relatively little consideration given to differences between the global north and global south. We found strong evidence for a difference between the north and south, with younger gardens in the global south and older gardens in the global north the most likely to be influenced (garden activities impacted) by the GSPC. We suggest that these differences should be taken into account by the CBD when designing guidelines for the second GSPC phase.
What factors predict GSPC implementation by botanic gardens?
Aspects of policy in line with the existing abilities of institutions and other agendas are the most likely to be implemented (Spillane et al. 2002). This is logical as the barriers to such implementation are lower than for instigating entirely new activities. However if biodiversity policies result in little real change or new activities then their value is limited.
We have individually assessed the relative contribution of botanic gardens in the implementation of the 16 GSPC targets. Our results show the GSPC targets most implemented by botanic gardens are those related to horticulture and education. These areas are the traditional strengths of botanic gardens (Ali and Trivedi 2011). Target 14 (the importance of plant diversity and the need for its conservation incorporated into communication, educational and public-awareness programmes), target 8 (60% of threatened plant species in accessible ex situ collections, preferably in the country of origin and 10% of them included in recovery and restoration programmes) and target 16 (networks for plant conservation activities established or strengthened at national, regional and international levels) are the three targets most frequently implemented by botanic gardens. These targets can be implemented using the existing capacity and expertise held by botanic gardens. It is feasible that without the GSPC, botanic gardens would still be active in these fields of conservation. However, our interviews suggest that some botanic gardens have been encouraged to expand existing programmes in areas such as ex situ conservation and education.
Targets 6, 9 and 12 (all related to sustainable use of plant resources and conservation of indigenous knowledge) are the least implemented of the GSPC targets. This supports previous research indicating targets relating to conservation of socio-economic species and sustainable use of plants are the least implemented of the GSPC targets (Paton and Lughadha 2011), perhaps because these three targets are not considered traditional activities of botanic gardens (Donaldson 2009). Other institutions and stakeholders are also involved in implementation of the GSPC at a national, regional and international level. However, it has been argued that botanic gardens could also address the sustainable use of plant resources to remain relevant to national agendas, particularly where governments are focusing on the sustainable use of natural resources as a contribution to poverty alleviation (Pennisi 2010; Simiyu 2010). The expertise within botanic gardens could be applied to the GSPC targets relating to sustainable use of plants. For example, Aburi Botanic garden in Ghana established a project to promote conservation of over-harvested species through cultivation (BGCI 2011). Initiatives such as these, using existing abilities and strengths, could enable botanic gardens to extend their traditional agendas and implement a wider array of the GSPC targets. However, financial resources may limit implementation of new programmes and funding was identified as an important barrier to implementation of the GSPC. Botanic gardens with smaller budgets are generally less likely to implement the GSPC targets. This finding was supported by the interviews where staff highlighted funding as a primary limitation to their implementation of the GSPC targets. Policy makers should consider the capacity of the institutions responsible for implementation and ensure adequate resources are available (Irvine 2009).
Our results also indicate that gardens that are members of the global botanic garden network (BGCI) are more likely to implement the GSPC than non-BGCI members. This result could be because BGCI are a conservation-orientated organisation and distribute all relevant GSPC material to members. Gardens within the BGCI network receive specific information about the GSPC and how gardens can respond to it. Such informal communication is often a key component of collective learning (Siebenhüner 2002). In the context of biodiversity policy implementation, drawing upon the experiences of others could help the implementers become more effective. Interaction between colleagues discussing a policy can have greater impact on how it is interpreted and used than the policy text itself or guidelines provided (Kirby and Krone 2002). GSPC policy makers should therefore consider creating opportunities for the implementers to network and discuss experiences of implementation, which may ultimately lead to increased biodiversity conservation activities.
What changes could improve implementation of policy?
Our results indicate regional context and age are important factors to consider when promoting the GSPC. Identifying the institutions that have not been influenced by a policy can help to tailor future promotion of a policy, directed at institutions that have not yet been influenced (Sanderson 2002, Schofield 2004). This result may be of use to policy makers as the North–South difference indicates these regions are influenced differently. We suggest that dissemination of the GSPC 2011–2020 includes guidelines and suggestions on how institutions can respond and implement the policy.
This could help botanic garden staff understand the relevance of the GSPC to their own garden’s mission and perhaps encourage aspects of the GSPC to be integrated into their activities. Particular focus could be given to influencing younger global north gardens and older global south gardens, who may have heard of the policy but are the least likely to be implementing it.
Tools that allow policy makers and implementers to share knowledge, providing opportunities to learn from shared experiences, can reduce the gap between policy and practice (Fazey et al. 2005; Willems and de Lange 2007) and potentially foster more effective implementation. In the case of the GSPC, a flexible coordination mechanism has been put in place by the CBD Secretariat, providing one channel for feedback between implementers and policy makers. The Global Partnership for Plant Conservation (GPPC), an informal grouping of organisations dedicated to GSPC implementation, including, but not limited to, botanic gardens and their networks, is part of the flexible coordination mechanism. An opportunity for feedback is also provided through the CBD national reports. All CBD Parties are required to report on progress towards the GSPC targets as part of their reporting to the CBD Secretariat. While the larger and more influential botanic gardens play an active role in the GPPC and contribute to national CBD reports, it is clear that smaller gardens are less well represented in these processes. The in-depth review of progress towards the GSPC that was carried out by the CBD Secretariat in 2008 and reported in the Plant Conservation Report (Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity 2009) noted the need for greater engagement with all stakeholders at the national level to enhance implementation. Furthermore, while in some countries (e.g. Belgium, Canada and Ireland) botanic gardens provide the GSPC focal point, in other countries botanic garden activities are overlooked in national CBD reports. In such cases, it is clear that linkages between national policy makers and implementing agencies such as botanic gardens, need to be improved. The CBD Secretariat has recently commissioned the development of toolkit that will aim to enhance national, sub-regional and regional implementation of the GSPC (Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity 2011b) by providing accessible information to support GSPC implementers. We recommend that the toolkit include a system for all organisations implementing the GSPC to communicate with others similarly involved and to feedback their experiences to the policy formulators, i.e. CBD Parties. This could take the form of an interactive online forum whereby individuals could add examples of projects addressing the GSPC targets and the outcomes of these projects. Improved communication through the toolkit may also encourage botanic gardens to communicate and build links with organisations outside the botanic garden community, providing a chance to discuss GSPC implementation by a variety of institutions. Additionally, a system for implementers to report on their contribution in implementing specific targets could help with measuring and monitoring progress made towards meeting the GSPC targets globally.
Policies such as the GSPC are unlikely to change the direction of participating institutions overnight; aspects that are inline with existing institutional capacity and agenda will be the areas most likely to be implemented. However if a policy is effectively communicated, adequate resources are available and opportunities provided for institutions to learn from one another, changes can occur over time. To widen the influence of the second phase of the GSPC, we suggest dissemination should include guidelines and ideas to support implementation. Particular focus may be given to younger global north gardens and older global south gardens, as these are currently the least influenced by the GSPC. Mobilising gardens that have either not heard of, or yet incorporated aspects of the GSPC into their work, could potentially lead to wider implementation. The next phase of the GSPC provides a second opportunity for CBD parties to increase and improve the global effort towards halting the decline in plant diversity. Increased communication between the GSPC policy actors and additional financial support, particularly focused on gardens in the global south, will help ensure the potential of the GSPC is realised.
Many thanks to all the botanic gardens that responded to the survey and to BGCI for facilitating this research, in particular Sara Oldfield. Olena Tarasova, Emilie Smith, Lucy Baird, Xiangying Wen, Igor Smirnov and Gaetan Riou provided survey translations. John Healey and Tom Yarrow provided useful suggestions during the research, and to Pat Denne for comments on an earlier draft. Bangor University supported the work through the 125th Anniversary Scholarship award.