In 2021, Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) established the Global Conservation Consortium for the flowering plant genus Erica. It brought together the world’s Erica experts, conservationists, and the botanical community, including botanic gardens, seed banks, and organisations in Africa, Madagascar, Europe, the USA, Australia and beyond. The aim: to deploy their unique sets of skills for effective conservation of the genus to prevent species extinctions. With well over 800 species, Erica, the heaths or heathers, extend through tropical Africa and Madagascar, to the Mediterranean basin and Europe. Across this range they are threatened, suffering the immediate impacts of habitat destruction, invasive species, changes in natural fire regimes and climate change. Almost 700 Erica species are concentrated in the Cape Floristic Region of South Africa. All are regional endemics, and typically for Cape plant groups many show striking local variation, some of which is formally described under distinct subspecies and varieties. Of 944 such taxa currently included in the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI)’s Red List, 108 are classified as rare, a further 84 as Vulnerable, 60 Endangered, and 46 Critically Endangered. Three are already extinct in the wild. Over a hundred more are ‘Data Deficient’ – species with populations insufficiently known to be able to estimate the degree of threat to their survival. Here we set out the aims and achievements of the consortium to date, including threat status and conservation prioritising incorporating systematic research, conservation efforts in situ (including collection and monitoring) and ex situ (horticulture and seed banking), and outreach.
Poster image details:
Top left: Anthony Hitchcock with reintroduced Erica verticillata.
Top right: Alex Lansdowne at the Princess Vlei Forum in 2019. Photo by Bridget Pitt.
Centre left: Erica propagation at Belvedere Garden, Vienna (image Daniel Rohrauer/Michael Knaack).
Centre right: Millennium Seed Bank.
Bottom left: TL: Erica recurvata (CR), TR: E. verticillata (EW) (photos: Mike Pirie); BL: E. turgida (EW; photo: Alex Lansdowne); BR: E. baueri (EN; photo: Robbie Blackhall-Miles).
Bottom right: Seth Musker performs field work in the Western Cape sampling for a phylogenomics project on Erica species complexes (photo: Mike Pirie).
Video available with subtitles here.