A fifth of all plants face extinction. Alpines are particularly vulnerable for two reasons:
1. Alpines are very specialised to their environment
2. Alpine environments are most at risk from climate change
Putting these two factors together, alpines frequently find themselves in environments to which they are not well-adapted. Add to this the fact that plant enthusiasts often remove alpines from the wild and you can see why alpines are so under threat.
If alpines are going to survive in the wild, it’s vital we respect all regulations regarding their conservation and protection. The AGS is an alpine plant conservation charity. Consequently, our staff and members are expected to do everything in their power to protect alpine plants in their natural habitats. Importantly, this means not removing any plants or plant material from the wild. The only exception is if this removal has been legally authorised and is necessary for conservation and research. Our members are also required to comply strictly with all plant conservation laws when buying and selling plants.
Here are the key plant conservation laws that relate to AGS tours, plant propagation and exchanges:
The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is a global conservation treaty. It calls on states to conserve nature and make sure it’s used sustainably. An example would be by restricting access to a certain area to protect plants growing there. When visiting a country, it’s important to know which areas you’re allowed to explore and whether restrictions apply, e.g. not taking pets or sterilising your shoes before you visit. The AGS always works with local experts when organising a tour so that our members will be in full compliance with plant conservation laws.
The Nagoya Protocol controls access to a country’s natural resources. It also makes sure any benefits that come from access are shared with the country they came from. If you wish to remove any plant material from the wild of a country that is party to the Nagoya Protocol for any reason, you must agree terms of access and benefit-sharing with the relevant national authority. If you are ever uncertain of the rules, please approach the AGS or your tour guide for more information.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES) controls international trade in species that are (or may be) threatened with extinction. It has two appendices: Appendix I lists species that cannot be traded for commercial purposes. Appendix II lists species that can be traded commercially, as long as they have a valid export permit from the relevant national authority.
A number of species grown by AGS members can be traded commercially with valid export permits (i.e are listed in Appendix II). This includes:
If a plant has been artificially propagated, the rules are different. The plant needs a propagation certificate from the national authority, but an export permit isn’t needed. Artificial propagation has, helpfully, reduced demand for wild-collected alpines. In 2000, for example, Lewisia cotyledon was removed from Appendix II because almost all trade in that species now comes from cultivated, rather than wild, stock. Great news for endangered alpine plants!
There are other trade restrictions, too. For example, you can’t trade in any wild-collected specimen of plants listed in Annex IV of the EU’s Habitats Directive (unless for conservation or research). This Annex also lists a number of plants grown by AGS members, including many dwarf bulbs, dwarf ferns and high alpine species. Like all EU plant conservation laws, these regulations apply in the UK post-Brexit unless later changed by Parliament.
In 2019, new regulations were introduced. These control plant movement to stop the spread of pests and diseases. Generally, plants being sold directly to gardeners are not covered and plant sales at AGS events won’t be affected. Plants that are sold to gardeners remotely, however, such as over the internet or by mail-order, may be covered. It’s important to check with the seller whether the plant has the passport required.
You can find more information on the laws listed here at the following websites:
DEFRA is the government department responsible for overseeing the implementation of plant conservation laws in the UK. The AGS is working with them, alongside other horticultural organisations, to understand how recent changes to the law affect our activities. If you need advice on accessing or trading plant material, or are having trouble contacting other countries’ national authorities, contact DEFRA via the link below: