The role of botanical gardens in climate change research

What botanical gardens tell us about the climate crisis

by Lorenzo Ciotti
The role of botanical gardens in climate change research

To keep the climate system within conditions that guarantee the survival of the human species and most of those currently living on planet Earth, it is therefore necessary to quickly eliminate the emission of further greenhouse gases and remove those already in the atmosphere through so-called negative emissions.

Surveys such as the 2018 Emissions Gap Report show that, by contrast, greenhouse gas emissions around the world have further increased rather than decreased, and technical solutions for large-scale negative emissions are not at all promising for the time being so the risk of a climate catastrophe persists.

The role of botanical gardens in climate change research

The study: The growing and vital role of botanical gardens in climate change research, published on the The New phytologist, explained: "Botanical gardens make unique contributions to climate change research, conservation, and public engagement.

They host unique resources, including diverse collections of plant species growing in natural conditions, historical records, and expert staff, and attract large numbers of visitors and volunteers. Networks of botanical gardens spanning biomes and continents can expand the value of these resources.

Over the past decade, research at botanical gardens has advanced our understanding of climate change impacts on plant phenology, physiology, anatomy, and conservation. For example, researchers have utilized botanical garden networks to assess anatomical and functional traits associated with phenological responses to climate change.

New methods have enhanced the pace and impact of this research, including phylogenetic and comparative methods, and onl ine databases of herbarium specimens and photographs that allow studies to expand geographically, temporally, and taxonomically in scope.

Botanical gardens have grown their community and citizen science programs, informing the public about climate change and monitoring plants more intensively than is possible with garden staff alone. Despite these advances, botanical gardens are still underutilized in climate change research.

To address this, we review recent progress and describe promising future directions for research and public engagement at botanical gardens."