Les jardins botaniques et la préservation de la biodiversité par Maïté DELMAS – Château de Bénouville

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Les jardins botaniques et la préservation de la biodiversité par Maïté DELMAS – Château de Bénouville

Botanical gardens and preservation of biodiversity

It was in mid-16th century Italy that what we consider to be the forerunners of botanical gardens emerged for the first time. Designed for educational purposes, these medicinal plant gardens were created around universities, in 1544 in Pisa and in 1545 in Padua.
In France, Henri IV entrusted the botany and anatomy professor Pierre Richer de Belleval with the creation of a botanical garden in Montpellier. It was created in 1593, based on the same model as the Padua garden. In Paris, under the impetus of Guy de la Brosse, botanist and doctor of Louis XIII, the royal garden of medicinal plants (present-day botanical garden) was created in 1635.
These botanical gardens served not only to train doctors and apothecaries, but also as an educational tool in botany, chemistry and anatomy.
Thanks to the development of major exploratory expeditions across the globe, new plant collections abounded from all around. These plants were grown in the open ground, under shelters, or were dried and archived in herbariums. Botanists sought to name these new species and to list them via increasingly complex classification systems. Henceforth, not only pharmacists were interested in developing collections, but also agronomers, horticulturists, foresters and landscapers.
The missions of botanical gardens were diversified and the very concept of a botanical garden evolved in time with its increased numbers. Their creation stretched well beyond European frontiers, in particular via extensive development of acclimatisation gardens.
In the mid 20th century, new awareness of biodiversity erosion was to significantly alter the traditional vocations of botanical gardens. Collections gathered in botanical gardens, thanks to associated documentation, together with the expertise of their staff, have become indispensable tools to serve programmes aimed at knowledge dissemination, research and biodiversity preservation. Since 2002, a shared strategic framework, the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (GSPC), has reinforced new roles.
Thanks to the excellent organisation of regional and national networks, and to the implementation of accreditation systems, the world’s botanical gardens express their commitment to implementing these new missions to serve nature and society.

Maïté Delmas

Maïté Delmas is co-president of the Global Partnership for Plant Conservation and the national representative for the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation work programme within the framework of the Convention on Biological Diversity.
Trained at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Maïté has worked in the botanical gardens of Bordeaux and at the National Museum of Natural History for over 30 years. In 2011, she was appointed deputy director at the Directorate for European, international and ultramarine affairs at the National Museum of Natural History, where she is particularly involved in projects associated with botany.
She contributes towards the valorisation of action in French and international botanical gardens and is the main contributor of part 6 of the national report addressed to the Convention on Biological Diversity, offering an overview of implementation of the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation in France.
She promotes the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation within a number of networks of which she is a member, in particular the professional botanical garden association in France and French-speaking countries, of which she is currently vice-chairman, and at European level as a national representative of the European Botanic Gardens Consortium.