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[Contribution] Can arboretums and gardens save the world? Exploring their role in biodiversity conservation

By Korea Herald

Published : May 16, 2024 - 17:43

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Korea Arboreta and Gardens Institute's Director General Lee Seok-woo (KoAGI) Korea Arboreta and Gardens Institute's Director General Lee Seok-woo (KoAGI)

By Lee Seok-woo

In recent years, the rapid decline of biodiversity worldwide due to deteriorating global environmental conditions, including climate change, has become a pressing concern. The need for urgent measures to conserve biodiversity has never been more critical. Arboretums play a crucial role in preserving plant species diversity, especially in the conservation of indigenous plant species. Additionally, the diverse forms of gardens being established in urban areas are increasingly recognized for their vital role not only in urban biodiversity conservation but also as carbon sinks.

As we commemorate the International Day for Biodiversity on May 22, proclaimed by the United Nations to increase understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues, it is essential to reflect on the indispensable role of arboretums and gardens in biodiversity conservation and enhancement.

Arboretums serve as sanctuaries for plant species diversity, preserving a wide range of plant species and contributing to the conservation of genetic resources. Currently, there are a total of 71 arboretums operating in Korea, including national, public and private institutions. They play a pivotal role in research, education, and public engagement, fostering awareness and understanding of biodiversity conservation among people of all ages.

On the other hand, gardens in urban areas, including community gardens, rooftop gardens and public parks, are emerging contributors to urban biodiversity conservation. By providing habitats for wildlife, supporting pollinators and serving as carbon sinks, these gardens play a vital role in enhancing urban ecosystem resilience and mitigating the impacts of climate change.

Moreover, gardens offer valuable opportunities for community engagement, environmental education and promoting sustainable practices. They empower individuals and communities to actively participate in biodiversity conservation efforts, fostering a sense of environmental stewardship and community cohesion.

The Korea Forest Service announced March 27th that it has established the "5th Arboretum Promotion Basic Plan." This plan, set to be implemented in 2028, encompasses strengthening the collection and conservation of rare, endemic and endangered plants, enhancing the conservation and restoration of biodiversity, activating the industrial utilization of forest biological resources, creating smart arboretums accessible to all citizens and strengthening international cooperation of forest biodiversity conservation. Additionally, KFS is implementing various policies to promote garden culture and boost the garden industry.

On this International Day for Biodiversity, let us recognize the critical role of arboretums and gardens in biodiversity conservation and enhancement. It is through the concerted efforts of arboretums, gardens, policymakers and communities that we can effectively address the challenges facing biodiversity and work towards a sustainable future for all life on Earth.

Lee Seok-woo is Korea Arboreta and Gardens Institute's director general. The views expressed in this article are his own. -- Ed.