Exploring new ex situ conservation tools: Quantifying the conservation value of living collections & exchanging species propagation data


24 February 2022




Ex situ collections management is no small task. Behind every addition, removal, and allotment of resources rests a suite of values – some explicitly outlined (for example, in a garden’s mission statement) and others subconsciously considered. The Morton Arboretum, with support from the Institute of Museum and Library Sciences (award #MA-30-18-0273-18), has been exploring this question… how do we quantify, sustain, and increase the conservation value of ex situ living collections in light of our diverse goals? For this pilot project, five dimensions of conservation value were identified – endangerment, environmental, genetic, horticultural, and phylogenetic – and four nationally-accredited collections at The Morton Arboretum were selected – Quercus (oaks), Malus (crabapples), Tilia (lindens), and Ulmus (elms). During a special session, Emily Beckman Bruns provided a detailed look at how the team is defining and quantifying one of the five dimensions of conservation value: endangerment. This new method assesses which plant species might be highest or lowest priority for preventing plant extinctions. Emily showcased advantages of this approach, as well as some pitfalls. This method and similar rankings will help The Morton Arboretum in revising collections plans and policies.

Additionally, Abby Meyer, Executive Director of BGCI-US,  presented on a new species propagation data exchange tool being planned in partnership with the United States Botanic Garden. The tool will be connected to BGCI’s PlantSearch database, the only global database of plant taxa in botanic gardens and similar organizations. Both presentations encouraged contributions from attendees. The recording of the session can be viewed here.