Raising Rarity: Creating meaningful and sustainable conservation outcomes through community-based outreach.
Keywords:Conservation Botanic Gardens, Education, Living Collections, Ex situ conservation
A priority in plant conservation science is the identification of species at risk of extinction, allowing for conservation efforts to be focused on those that are most critically endangered to prevent their loss. A 2023 revision of threatened plants in Victoria found that 1,557 species remain under direct threat of extinction, despite conservation work being undertaken across the state to safeguard both individual species and plant communities. Although conservation efforts are fundamental to the protection of our flora, the persistently high number of threatened species illustrates a need to reimagine the way in which we approach conservation. Central to this is a need to engage more people across a broader cross-section of the community so that they can contribute to initiatives that effectively reduce the number of species at risk.
Raising Rarity is a community-based outreach programme run by Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria (RBGV). It is designed to actively engage distinct sectors of the Victorian community in local plant conservation. The programme acknowledges that although the expertise provided by RBGV in areas that include conservation horticulture, seed ecology, population genetics, outreach and education is critical to plant conservation efforts, the engagement and involvement of the broader community is fundamental to creating sustainable plant conservation solutions. Raising Rarity achieves this by working with volunteers, school groups, regional botanic gardens, local councils and members of the nursery industry to grow and display rare and threatened Victorian plants in accessible horticultural settings. The initiative aims to increase public knowledge, awareness and hands-on involvement in plant conservation.
There are four key components to the Raising Rarity programme: (1) school outreach; (2)local government outreach; (3) botanic gardens outreach in an initiative called Care for the Rare; and (4) commercialisation of an RBGV rare plant collection. This article provides an overview of each of these components and outlines future objectives for the Raising Rarity programme.
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