Ways to Conserve Bromeliads

Bromeliads and Habitat Conservation

The Bromeliad Society International is dedicating itself to the conservation of bromeliads and the natural bromeliad habitats. There is a great need for action!

Already in 1987, the BSI standing committee for conservation ratified a statement that explicitly expresses the intention to get actively involved in bromeliad conservation i.e. “advocate the conservation of bromeliads in nature and their habitats” and promote a supportive behaviour that “may affect the well-being of wild populations of bromeliads” and “to represent the society in conservation matters “(BSI 2005, Bylaws: Standing Rules 6.4.e).

A conservation goal and certain objectives have been defined and a BSI Code of Conduct for Growers and Collectors has been established and published in the Journal 30:207-209.

As of yet about 3,000 bromeliad species have been discovered and described. There is still a lot of research work to be done to identify unknown species.

Some of us dedicate a lot of research time in order to find a bromeliad and/or its natural habitat. Others travel into the most remote areas of our planet to find one wild species, and of course seeing bromeliads in nature can bring on a sense of joy and wonder. Besides offering us such enjoyment, wild bromeliads can also serve as a resource to enhance the genetic variability of our own collections. Conservationists help to preserve this font throughout different approaches:

But How Exactly Can We Conserve Bromeliads?

In what way can we conserve bromeliads so that future generations will have equal opportunities to enjoy and use these plants?

In the history of conservation we can find different approaches to conserve special species. Some bromeliads are very good target species due to their charismatic appearance and their popularity as rare collective plants. In this sense bromeliads may serve as so called “flagship” species which are species that draw the attention and support of the general public. The conservation of bromeliads may cause a spill-over effect for the conservation of the surrounding habitat and other plants and animals that depend on it. Research of bromeliads carried out in the bromeliad habitats, concerning systematic ecology and cultivation, can also contribute to conservation efforts by providing viable information to conservationists and decision-makers. In addition, research within living collections and with plant material will lead to a better understanding of bromeliads.

The Neotropics are home to most of the bromeliads except for one species originating from Western Africa. The Neotropics are a floral realm comprising the tropical, subtropical, and austral zone of the New World, i.e. flora in the area of South and Central America.

This region is characterized by a very high biodiversity, a multiplicity of so called biodiversity hotspots or regions, and containing so called mega-diversity countries, since they comprise of a wide range of ecosystems, from humid forest areas, to desert like dry lands, with a high percentage of endemism and a high extinction rate. As most South and Central American nations are focusing to fight poverty and install political stability, there is little national initiative for conservation. Unsustainable harvesting methods, deforestation, poverty, corruption, exploitation of natural resources, and land conversion to agricultural and urban use are major threats to the natural habitats of bromeliads, especially for the forest species.

For this reason modern biodiversity conservation uses a holistic approach that works with the specific species directly in their habitats, while implementing sustainable use of the region’s natural resources in an equitable way, which is also known as the Ecosystem Approach. Focus is on the ecosystem as “a dynamic complex of plant, animal and micro-organism communities and their non-living environment interacting as a functional unit” (Convention in Biological Diversity, Art.2). Along with preserving viable ecosystems, the survivals of single species in their natural habitat as well as the provision of ecosystem goods and services are most likely ensured by the implementation of the Ecosystem Approach. The ecosystem approach is a strategy for the integrated management of land, water and living resources that promotes conservation and sustainable use in an equitable way. The ecosystem approach is a strategy for the integrated management of land, water and living resources that promotes conservation and sustainable use in an equitable way.

Sustainable Development

As most of the Neotropical nations represent developing countries, or emerging nations, development is a central issue of these nations. Poverty reduction, political stability, national sovereignty, and improvement of living standards are also focal objectives in order to install a functioning conservation initiative. In order to assure nations’ development they need the right to use their natural resources and a fair and equal share of the benefits of the natural resources as also indicated by the Convention on Biological Diversity. It is necessary to reduce the impacts of present biodiversity threats, like deforestation, ecosystem degradation, slash and burn, and illegal trade of animals and plants. There is a great need for the implementation of sustainable management tools in order to guarantee a further existence of the world’s resources for future generations as well.

The Brundtland Report (1987) defined sustainable development as development that "meets the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs".

For the Neotropics this could mean education and involvement of the local inhabitants; minimizing physical acreage under agriculture by increasing levels of productivity and efficiency; minimizing the impact of chemicals used, by closely monitoring application levels; expanding agro-forestry, installing leguminous cover crops as fodder crops and for soil rehabilitation; providing habitats for wildlife within farms; providing alternative sources of income from the forest/agriculture sector (in particular in rural areas); introducing incentives for ecologically sound investments; and expanding reforestation programmes.

But thus far we do not practice sustainable management and the world’s resources are still endangered to such an extent by human activities, that, as an immediate action, it became necessary to “enforce” in-situ conservation. In situ means “The conservation of ecosystems and natural habitats and the maintenance and recovery of viable populations of species in their natural surroundings […]” (UN, 1992: CBD, Art.2).

In addition protected areas were established, which according to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is “an area of land or sea especially dedicated to the protection and maintenance of biological diversity and of natural and associated culture resources, and managed through legal or other effective means”.

The World Summit in Rio de Janeiro (1992) stated in Art. 8 that “To enforce in-situ conservation a system of protected areas should be established in order to preserve species in their functional ecosystems”.

All 178 ratifying nations of the CBD have obligated themselves to implement international policy into national legislation.

Until now about 44,000 protected areas have been established in the world, compromising an area of 13,630,616 sq km equivalent to the size of China and India taken together. IUCNhas generated a system of categories, differentiated by their management objective, varying from strict nature reserve/wilderness areas to managed resource protected areas, where people can live and manage their goods in a sustainable way. Check out the World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA) which provides the most comprehensive dataset on protected areas worldwide and is managed by UNEP-WCMC. For example, you can search for protected area in specific countries and then get more information on the corresponding sites.

Vera Porwollik & Pierre L. Ibisch (BSI Conservation Chair)

BSI Conservation Index


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