The Conservation and Sustainable Use of the
Crop Genetic Resources of Central America
A Darwin Initiative funded project at WCMC
Phase 1 documents
W JAM 1
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219, Huntingdon Road. Cambridge CB3 ODL, U K
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The mission of the
World Conservation Monitoring Centre is to provide
information on the status, security and
management of the Earth's biological diversity.
The Conservation and Sustainable Use of the
Crop Genetic Resources of Central America
A Darwin Initiative funded project at WCMC
Phase 1 documents
* Project proposal
* Appraisal meeting agenda
* Delegates at appraisal meeting
* Draft discussion paper
* Project summary March 1994 (English and Spanish)
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in 2010 with funding from
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Unique Identifier: 120.4
1. Project Title:
2. Submitted by:
THE CONSERVATION AND SUSTAINABLE USE OF THE
PLANT GENETIC RESOURCES OF CENTRAL AMERICA
World Conservation Monitoring Centre, 219 Huntingdon Road,
Cambridge CB3 ODL, UK, in collaboration with the Royal
Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh and Kew, and a consortium of
North and Central American and European agencies that will
participate in the project (see Section 1 1)
to assess the status, distribution and threats to the most economically important
plants and their wild relatives in Central America
to determine current and potential uses and economic benefits of the plant genetic
resources of the region
to promote the conservation of genetic variation amongst the wild progenitors and
landraces of agricultural crop plants in the region
to reinforce the economic values of plant genetic resources as an incentive for
countries in the region to conserve their biodiversity
to build the capabilities of the national institutions within the region to identify,
evaluate and utilise their plant genetic resources as a key component of the
biological wealth of the countries
to develop a methodology and operational practice for quantifying the status, use
and economic values of plant genetic resources that can be applied in other
regions of the world
Pilot Project, Central America
January 1994 - April 1994
April 1994 - October 1994
November 1994 - December 1995
5. Executive Summary:
The accelerating erosion of the genetic diversity of plants of current or potential
economic value represents a wasting opportunity for farmers, local communities and
governments to benefit from their sustainable utilisation. The need to conserve genetic
resources for their use in food production, sustainable agriculture and new
pharmaceuticals is widely recognised by governments and provides a powerful incentive
for the conservation of biodiversity. This realisation is reinforced by the provisions of
Agenda 21 and the Biodiversity Convention, both of which stress the need to identify
and monitor the status, threats to, and utilisation of plant genetic resources.
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A study is proposed of the in situ plant genetic resources of Central America, focusing
particularly on the wild progenitors and landraces of agricultural crop plants. A broad-
based consortium of developed and developing country agencies will be established with
a strong emphasis upon building the capabilities of the institutions within the region.
The project will develop, field-test and refine a methodology for in-country gathering
of data and assessing national priorities, which will be presented to the FAO 1995
Conference on Plant Genetic Resources. It is envisaged that this methodology will then
be applied throughout the world at the country level as a key input to the year 2000
Global Plan of Action. Central America has been identified for the pilot study because
of its high level of indigenous crop genetic diversity - the region is recognised as a
Vavilov Centre - and its well established network of agricultural, botanical and
The loss of genetic diversity in agricultural crop plants is one of the most serious, but
often overlooked, issues in the conservation of biodiversity, not least because of the need
to maintain maximum diversity in the context of global climate change. This study will
develop the tools and operational procedures for countries to identify and assess their
own genetic assets as the basis for recognising their economic benefits and conservation
6. Relevance to the Darwin Initiative
The proposal fulfils the Darwin Initiative Committee's recommendations: 4(i) funding
would have a catalytic role constituting only 25% of the pilot project costs and a
considerably smaller proportion of total project costs; 4(ii) this research is not funded
through traditional channels; 4(iii) the project focuses on conservation and sustainable
use of biodiversity in areas rich in genetic resources; 4(iv) the project directly addresses
obligations under the Biodiversity Convention; 5(i) the project is collaborative and will
use existing links and develop additional links with institutes in developing countries;
5(iv) it will provide information on wild progenitors of crop plants which may have
direct benefit to in-country commercial activities; 5(v) it will involve local communities
outside the UK specifically developing a methodology that will be applied not only to
wild relatives of crops in South America, but also to those in Africa and Asia.
7. International Context:
7. 1 The key principle underlying the Convention on Biological Diversity, signed by
158 countries at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, is the need to generate
economic incentives through sustainable use programmes for countries to
conserve their biological resources. Because of the potential provided by
biotechnology to develop such economic benefits, the Convention gives specific
attention to the issues of access to genetic resources, the transfer of relevant
skills and technologies, and the fair and equitable sharing of economic benefits,
arising from the exploitation of genetic materials.
7.2 Clearly, this focus on biotechnology and commercial exploitation assumes that
a country has the capability to recognise and evaluate the genetic resources it has
at its disposal. The Convention therefore places particular emphasis on the need
to identify genetic materials that offer the greatest potential for sustainable use,
and on monitoring processes and activities that are likely to have a significant
adverse effect upon their conservation (Article 7).
7.3 This emphasis upon the use of genetic resources is reinforced by Resolution 3 of
the Conference for the Adoption of the Convention on Biological Diversity
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(May 1992), which "recognises the benefits arising from the care and
improvement by the- peoples of the world of animal, plant and microbial genetic
resources to supply their basic needs...". Resolution 3 goes on to propose:
• the identification and monitoring of plant genetic resources of potential value
for food and sustainable agriculture
• the promotion of genetic diversification in crop production in agricultural
• the promotion of research on, and utilisation of, poorly known but potentially
useful plants and crops
• the strengthening of national capabilities for the identification and utilisation
of plant genetic resources
7.4 These measures are strengthened by the section on the Conservation and
Sustainable Utilisation of Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Sustainable
Agriculture included in Agenda 21 (chapter 14) of the Earth Summit. This
statement recognises the accelerating rate of genetic erosion of crop species, and
amongst other activities calls for:
• the characterisation, evaluation and utilisation of plant genetic resources for
agriculture, particularly for the minor crops and other under-utilised or non-
utilised species, including tree species for agro-forestry
• the establishment of mechanisms to assess, study, monitor and use plant
genetic resources to increase food production
• the establishment of joint activities, including training, for research on plant
genetic resources through networks of collaborating institutions
• the development of regional and global networks for the protection of plant
genetic resources in situ in conservation areas
• the building of in-country capabilities through training, raising awareness and
• the preparation of periodic state-of-the-world reports on plant genetic
7.5 Agenda 21 also makes the specific proposal (paragraph 14.62) to develop major
collaborative projects involving developed and developing countries for the
advancement of basic scientific research in plant genetic resources, particularly
for the enhancement of poorly known or neglected crops.
7.6 It can be seen, therefore, that there is an internationally recognised need to
develop a collaborative programme with a global application to identify, study
and monitor the status and use of plant genetic resources, particularly the wild
relatives of economically important and poorly known crop species. This
proposal has been developed in response to that challenge.
8. Project Overview:
8.1 It is proposed to establish a broad-based consortium involving developed and
developing country agencies drawn from both the governmental and private
sectors to undertake the project. The main focus will be to gather baseline data
on the status, distribution, and utilisation of plant genetic resources throughout
Central America as the basis for their conservation and sustainable use.
8.2 The data collection will be undertaken by appropriate in-country organisations
using a standard methodology. All participating agencies will contribute to the
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development of this methodology through a workshop to be held at the
commencement of the project. The primary role of the developed country
participants will be to contribute their data holdings, to assist the in-country
agencies in implementing the methodology, to provide training and skills transfer,
and to contribute to the process of building capacity within the region. In
addition, WCMC will serve as the catalyst for the development of the project,
will coordinate the activities of the agencies in-country, and will synthesise the
final regional report.
8.3 The information generated by the project will reside in an appropriate database
format within the countries, and will provide the basis for quantifying the
diversity and potential value of their genetic resources. Such recognition of their
genetic materials will reinforce the strategies and action plans that the countries
will be preparing under the terms of the Biodiversity Convention.
8.4 Although the full scope of the project will be agreed collectively by all the
participating agencies, it is envisaged that the primary orientation will be focused
towards the wild relatives and landraces of commercial crops, particularly those
• of economic significance, particularly at the farm level
• important for maintaining in situ genetic diversity
• threatened with extinction or serious exploitation in the wild
• of limited geographical distribution
• experiencing severe genetic erosion
• poorly researched and little known
• protected within existing conservation areas
• included in ex situ programmes
8.5 The project is envisaged as comprising four distinct phases:
Phase 1: Feasibility Assessment
- explore the need, practicalities and logistics of undertaking the study with the
main international agencies working in the genetic resources sector,
particularly the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the
International Board for Plant Genetic Resources (IBPGR), both based in Rome
- identify the relevant collaborating agencies, both international and from within
the region, and seek their participation
- convene a small pre-workshop appraisal meeting of the main participating
agencies at which to assess the strategic planning, operational procedures and
achievability of the project
Phase 2: Project Scoping
- prepare a detailed proposal based on the appraisal meeting as input to a
- convene a planning workshop within the region involving all the participating
agencies for the purpose of agreeing the scope, practicalities and procedural
arrangements for the project, including the drafting of a methodology for the
data gathering and assessment
- formalise and agree the methodology with a set of user guidelines for in-
- agree the options and procedures to safeguard the intellectual property rights
of farmers, local communities and nations in the Central American region
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- develop a full operational plan for Phase 3 agreed by all participants which
will be used to secure the necessary funds
Phase 3: Pilot Project, Central America
- undertake the study within the Central American region as agreed at the
scoping workshop, applying the methodology and guidelines
- assess the national needs and priorities for the conservation and sustainable use
of plant genetic resources
- demonstrate the potential benefits and values of genetic variability at the farm,
community and government levels as an incentive for genetic resource
- establish the in-country capability to monitor the status, threats and use of
plant genetic resources
- synthesise a report on the conservation and sustainable use of the plant genetic
resources of Central America
- revise the methodology and guidelines in the light of the experience of the
pilot study for promulgation throughout the world
Phase 4: Global Application
- assess the conservation status, sustainable use and economic benefits of the
plant genetic resources of the regions of the world through the application at
the country level of the methodology and guidelines revised in context of the
experience of the Central American pilot study
8 . 6 The UN Food and Agriculture Organization is convening in mid- 1 995 the Fourth
International Technical Conference on the Conservation and Sustainable Use
of Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Sustainable Agriculture, which is
likely to call for a Global Plan of Action and a State-of-the- World Report. It is
proposed that the Central American report be tabled at this FAO Conference, and
that the revised methodology be promulgated for adoption by countries as part
of the Global Plan of Action.
8.7 Agenda 21 calls for countries to adopt policies and programmes for the in situ,
on-farm, and ex situ conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources
by the year 2000. Such national programmes must be based upon a rational
assessment of the status, use and values of their genetic resources. It is the goal
of this project to stimulate the compilation of the data necessary for determining
national priorities under the Global Plan of Action. The project will therefore
contribute directly to the in situ assessment of plant genetic resources as a key
contribution to the 1995 FAO Conference.
9. Project Content:
9.1 The work programme and institutional responsibilities will be agreed at the
scoping workshop. The emphasis will be to facilitate the national agencies to
undertake the in-country data gathering and priority assessments with the
international agencies providing technical and scientific support as appropriate.
The existing national capabilities vary considerably - some countries such as
Costa Rica and Mexico already have substantial programmes under way for
prospecting and assaying plant genetic resources, whereas others have little or
none. In so far as is possible, the experience of agencies within the region, such
as Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad (INBio) of Costa Rica, and the
Universidad Nacional Autdnoma de Mexico (UNAM), will be mobilised for
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training and capacity building in other countries, supplemented by the
international agencies as appropriate.
9.2 It is anticipated that the scoping workshop will want to consider the following
aspects of the work programme, although this list is not intended to be exclusive:
i. determine what information on plant genetic resources of Central
America is available and in what format
survey the existing data sets held by such institutions as WCMC; Missouri
Botanical Garden; Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew; Royal Botanic Garden,
Edinburgh; Conservatoire et Jardins Botaniques, Geneve; ILDIS;
Conservation International; INBio; UNAM, and other national and
international data centres (see Section 10 for full names of acronyms);
ascertain best method of sharing data through common file structures or
through agreed transfer formats
ii. determine which plant genetic resources are of the highest priority for
conservation and sustainable use
on the basis of the data collected and the perspectives of the in-country
institutions, determine the taxonomic groups and geographical locations
for priority assessment
iii. develop a standard methodology for gathering the data in-country,
and prepare guidelines to facilitate national agencies undertaking this
to ensure comparability in the national assessments, it is intended to
develop a common methodology with accompanying guidelines for the
data management; the outline of this method will be agreed at the
workshop with the final version endorsed by the participating agencies as
the mechanism for data gathering
iv. establish a procedural and financial mechanism to honour intellectual
property rights of the suppliers of the information
work with in-country experts and institutions as well as international
bodies to create a structure in which information on plant genetic
resources can be shared; this will include identifying the relevant in-
country institutions to coordinate data gathering activities and to establish
an appropriate mechanism to ensure that the farmers and local
communities providing the information share in any commercial benefits;
the mechanism must recognise the intellectual property rights inherent in
the information, particularly relating to traditional uses by indigenous
peoples, farmers and local communities whose interests must be fully
considered. The process of gathering data on traditional plant uses and
plant genetic resources must not be allowed to create opportunities for
unscrupulous collectors to benefit without adequate safeguards of the
interests of the information sources
v. establish a cooperative network of campesinos, in-country and out-of-
country experts, national biodiversity centres, and international
agencies to share existing information and to gather the information
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that is not available
facilitate the cooperative ties and information sharing amongst institutions
and researchers, and make the information available to all interested
parties in a variety of appropriate formats - reports, diskettes, and on
global electronic networks, such as the Internet; sharing this information -
including bibliographic data, ongoing projects, and geographic and taxon-
based data (these data sets will, therefore, be textual as well as graphic,
such as maps and images) - will help reduce duplication of effort, better
focus and integrate existing research programmes in different countries,
and identify the gaps in the existing information; technical assistance will
also be offered for the development and expansion of plant genetic
resources databases being developed in-country
vi. map the distribution of plants deemed to be of highest priority;
correlate these maps with maps of human populations and settlement
using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology, map the overlap
of species diversity, cultural diversity, human population demography, and
the development pressure upon biological resources; utilize this
information to fine-tune the priorities set in ii. above
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vii. provide training to in-country personnel
work with national institutions and international agencies to train
personnel in conservation and genetic sampling techniques as part of the
process of building the in-country capacity for the improved management
of plant genetic resources
viii. sample the genetic diversity of the priority species, restricting initial
activities to a small number of taxa in a few areas
using in-country scientists, students, and parataxonomists, carry out
intensive studies on the genetic variability and stability of several priority
species; it may be possible to develop a coefficient of kinship as a
measure of genetic diversity in major crop types in specific localities as
a baseline for monitoring genetic erosion
ix. collect and maintain appropriate material in local and international
gene-banks and seed-banks
incorporate material into appropriate facilities and ensure its long-term
storage, curation and access; the project will not include sufficient
resources to support the ex situ facilities themselves, but will ensure that
the species and varieties are included in ex situ collections
x. assess or facilitate floristic checklists, inventories, and floras for the
conservation areas of the region to determine which species are
protected in those areas and which are not
assess the extent to which the plant species are already protected within
conservation areas through the completion of surveys and floristic
inventories; ensure that the management plans for protected areas give full
recognition to the conservation of plant genetic resources within their
boundaries; compare the distribution of species of high conservation
concern for their genetic importance with their presence in protected
areas, and work with the relevant national authorities to ensure the
adequate protection of such species that lie outside conservation areas;
promote the establishment of new protected areas in identified centres of
high genetic diversity
xi. coordinate the conservation activities of the botanic gardens and
similar organizations in the region to carry out in situ and ex situ
work with Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) to ensure
that the botanic gardens in the region are working in a coordinated fashion
to preserve and study as much of their plant genetic resources as possible;
this conservation work will include both in situ and ex situ activities, and
will need to encompass a wide variety of kinds of plants - wild species
(used both for extractive and non-extractive purposes), landraces, semi-
domesticates, and cultivated plants
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10. Project Outputs:
10. 1 At the farm and local community level:
a greater appreciation of the uses and benefits of maintaining genetic
diversity in agricultural crops
an improved realisation of the economic values of plant genetic resources
as an incentive for their conservation
a contribution to the on-going debate about farmers' rights, the
commercial applications of traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples,
and intellectual property rights
10.2 At the national government level:
a greater awareness of the economic benefits of the sustainable use of
genetic resources as an incentive for their conservation
an improved ability to identify priorities for the conservation and
sustainable use of biological resources to be incorporated in national
biodiversity strategies and action plans
an increased capability to plan and manage national genetic resources,
based upon a comprehensive database of the status, distribution and use
of plant genetic resources and the improved skills for their evaluation
a re-appraisal of national agricultural policies and fiscal policies that
impact genetic diversity
an improved recognition of the national biological assets of the countries
as an input to their negotiations with overseas companies for the
commercial exploitation of their genetic resources
a contribution to the debate about access to genetic resources, transfer of
biotechnology, and the equitable showing of benefits arising from the
commercial use of genetic materials
10.3 At the regional level:
a regional review of the status, distribution and use of the most
economically important plant genetic resources of Central America
a regional assessment of the priorities for the conservation and sustainable
use of the plant genetic resources of Central America, based on the
a contribution to the regionally-based initiatives for crop improvements
and sustainable agriculture
10.4 At the global level:
a contribution to the identification and assessment of in situ plant genetic
resources for the FAO 1995 Conference
a tried and tested methodology with accompanying user guidelines for
application by countries as a contribution to the proposed FAO Global
Plan of Action
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11. Participating Agencies:
This project is inherently collaborative in nature, and much effort will be needed to
organize and manage an international network of institutions and individual researchers
working in this area. A partial list of proposed collaborating institutions includes:
11.1 International agencies:
Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI), UK
Comisidn Nacional de Recursos Fitogen6ticos de Costa Rica (CONAREFI)
Conservation International (CI), US
Conservatoire et jardins botaniques, Geneve, Switzerland
Consortium on Plant Resources of the Americas (COPRA), US
Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), Italy
International Board for Plant Genetic Resources (IBPGR), Italy
International Legume Database and Information Service (ILDIS), UK
International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT), Mexico
IUCN - The World Conservation Union, Switzerland
Mesoamerican Plant Genetic Resources Network (REMERFI)
Missouri Botanical Garden, US
New York Botanical Garden, US
Organization of Tropical Studies (OTS), US
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, UK
Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh, UK
Smithsonian Institution, US
The Nature Conservancy (TNC), US
U.S. Department of Agriculture, US
11.2 National agencies:
Asociacidn para la Conservacidn de Naturaleza (ANCON), Panarni
Asociacidn para la Investigacidn y Propagacidn de Especies Panamenas (AIPEP),
Center for Agricultural Technology (CENT A), El Salvador
Centra Agrondmico Tropical de Investigacidn y Ensehanza (CATIE), Costa Rica
Commission on Plant Genetic Resources, Costa Rica
Forage Legume and Pasture Research Program, Ministry of Agriculture, Belize
Institute of Agronomic Research, University of San Carlos, Guatemala
Institute of Science and Agricultural Technology (ICTA), Guatemala
Instituto Interamericano de Cooperacidn para la Agriculture (IICA), Costa Rica
Institute Mexicano de Recursos Naturales Renovables (IMERNAR), M6xico
Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad (INBio), Costa Rica
National Autonomous University of Honduras
Nicaraguan Genetic Resources (REGEN), Nicaragua
Panamerican Agricultural School El Zamorano, Honduras
Secretary for Natural Resources (SRN), Honduras
Universidad Nacional Autdnoma de Mexico (UNAM), Mexico
12. WCMC data holdings:
12.1 WCMC manages substantial data holdings on the status, distribution, threats,
management and utilisation of biodiversity, sorted at the country or state level.
Of these, the following holdings are likely to be the most important for this
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WCMC holds information on nearly 69,000 taxa (species, subspecies, and
varieties) of plants, making this one of the largest such data sets in the world.
For each of these plants, computerised records are kept for the scientific and
common name(s), important synonyms, source of name, life form, endemism,
world distribution, and conservation status (using the IUCN Red Data Book
categories at both the global level and for each country in which the plant is
native). This information is linked to the plants bibliographic database.
Although the database is composed in large part by threatened plants, the same
structure is used to store information on other groups of plants - such as taxa
covered under CITES, tropical timbers subject to international trade, and single-
The WCMC plants bibliographic database is the world's largest computerised
bibliography dealing with plant conservation issues. Its 15,000 records are linked
extensively to other parts of the plants databases.
Plant species richness / endemism
WCMC holds tabular information on floristic richness for virtually all countries
of the world, and in connection with the IUCN Centres of Plant Diversity
project, has access to textual and georeferenced data on centres of endemism and
high species richness.
Using GIS (Geographic Information Systems) technology, WCMC holds digital
data on a wide variety of topics: tropical moist forests (management, locality,
extent, type, threats) at the national, regional, and global levels; wetlands of
international importance; coastal areas of ecological vulnerability; global
vegetation classifications; information on centres of plant and avian diversity;
other habitat types at the national, regional and global levels.
WCMC holds computerised information on the name, location, size, and
management of over 32,000 protected areas. Each country has a data file
describing the national system of protected areas, including its legal and
institutional base, supported by individual site files providing detailed data on the
main areas. This information includes all sites listed under the World Heritage
Convention (natural sites), Ramsar wetland sites, and Biosphere Reserves.
Floristic Inventories of Protected Areas
WCMC maintains lists of plant species occurring in national parks and protected
areas for those few areas that have undertaken botanical inventories. This work
is being expanded to enable the plants database to track species protected in more
than one area, and to record the species each area contains.
Through an on-going contract with the CrTES Secretariat, WCMC holds 1.6
million transaction records of CrTES-regulated organisms or derivatives.
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460,000 of these transaction records relate to plants, linking country of export,
import, taxon, quantity, and unit. These species represent an important economic
asset, which, if managed on the basis of sustainable use, can provide a real
conservation incentive to the exporting country.
12.2 Approximately 12,000 flowering plant species have been used by people as food,
but only about 150 have been cultivated to any extent, and today only 20 species
are responsible for supplying 90% of the world's food. An estimated 30,000 to
70,000 plant species have been used medicinally by local peoples, yet despite the
fact that approximately 80% of the world's population relies entirely on local
medicines made almost exclusively from plants, only about 5,000 species have
been scientifically analyzed for their pharmaceutical properties. A recent request
from IBPGR to WCMC asked for information on threatened species in 351
genera of economic importance; these genera belong to 95 families of higher
plants (gymnosperms and angiosperms), and they are currently represented by
9,825 taxa in WCMC threatened plant database.
12.3 According to the WCMC Plants database, 24,000 taxa of higher plants are
threatened at the world level, and another 10,000 taxa are threatened at the
national level in one or more countries where they are native. These 34,366
threatened plants represent over 12% of all higher plants. They are distributed
in 6,079 genera in 405 families. The largest number is found in the tropics and
12.4 Wild species are generally more variable than their corresponding crop, despite
often being known from smaller numbers of samples, and have larger and/or
different spectra of alleles. Even though 24,000 taxa are known to be threatened
with extinction, there is an unknown, but presumably much larger, number of
taxa whose genetic variability is being irreversibly lost. Thus, the study and
preservation of wild species in gene-banks, field gene-banks, seed-banks, and
botanic gardens is of critical importance.
13. Why Central America for the Pilot Study?
13.1 The Mesoamerican Region is recognised as being one of the nine Vavilov
Centres of the world, areas of exceptional concentration of crop plant variation.
The area of southern Mexico/Guatemala is also recognised as one of four nuclear
centres from which agricultural practices have spread throughout the world (see
attached map). The reasons for its crop diversity include the great age of
cultivation in the region, the wide range of ecological conditions and farming
practices, and the processes of natural selection caused by the presence of many
different pests and diseases.
13.2 These Vavilov Centres are of immense conservation importance because of their
crop genetic variability, and are of major cultural significance because of the
diversity of agricultural practices. Both are now under threat with serious
genetic erosion arising from the accelerating destruction of natural habitats and
from the widespread adoption of genetically uniform crop varieties. There is an
urgent need to document and preserve this diversity.
13.3 Central America is home to several major food crops of regional and global importance
- Capsicum annuum (chili pepper, sweet pepper), Carica papaya (papaya), Dioscorea
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spp. (yam), lpomoea batatas (sweet potato), Persea americana (avocado), Phaseolus
lunatus (lima bean), Phaseolus vulgaris (haricot bean), Zea mays (sweet corn, maize),
and Zeaperennis and Zea diploperennis. Lycopersicon esculentum (tomato), a native
of Andean South America, was probably first domesticated in Mexico, while the centre
of cultivation of the South American Theobroma cacao (cocoa) is in Central America.
13.4 There is a good basis of botanical knowledge for Central America on which to base this
project. This information base comes from nationally and regionally based initiatives
(e.g., Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR)-supported
international agricultural centres; International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center
(CIMMYT), Mexico; Centra Agrondmico Tropical de Investigacidnes (CATIE);
Comisidn Nacional de Recursos Fitogeneticos de Costa Rica (CONAREFI));
multinational initiatives (e.g., Flora Mesoamericana (a collaborative effort of
Missouri Botanical Garden, Universidad Nacional Autdnoma de Mexico, and the
- Natural History Museum, London); Flora Neotropica (coordinated by The New York
Botanical Garden); IUCN-Smithsonian Institution-World Conservation Monitoring
Centre Latin American Plants Project; EBPGR; FAO); and predominantly North
American initiated work (e.g., the Conservation Data Centers (CDCs) of The Nature
Conservancy; the Rapid Assessment Program of Conservation International; Institute
of Economic Botany (IEB) of the New York Botanical Garden; Organization of
Tropical Studies (OTS)).
13.5 There is also a long history of strong botanical networks involving Central America,
resulting in several modern regional and national floras mentioned above. The calibre
of in-country botanical and technical expertise is high, and there are a great many
national initiatives already under way. None of them, however, directly address the
issues of plant genetic resources on a regional basis.
13.6 Central America is an excellent region for the pilot project because of its strong
existing knowledge-base, because it is has been extensively surveyed (unlike South
America), and because it is a relatively small (only nine countries) but floristically rich
(over 20,000 species) area. The methodologies developed will undergo extensive and
appropriate field testing in this pilot project before they are promulgated on the global
14. Project Schedule:
methodology and guidelines
full operational plan
final Central American report
revised methodology and guidelines
State-of-the- World report
17 August 1993
The Conservation and Sustainable use of the
Plant Genetic Resources of Central America
Planning Appraisal Meeting
8-10 March 1994
Tuesday 8 March
10am- lpm Introductory Session
1 Welcome and introduction to WCMC - Harriet Gillett
2 Introduction to the project - Sara Oldfield
3 Smithsonian Institution's Latin American Plants Program - Jane
4 The work of IPGRI in Central America - Dr Daniel Debouck
5 The work of CONAREFI and REMERFI - Luis G. Gonzalez
6 The role of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew - Roger Smith
7 The work of CAB International - Dr Shaun Hobbs
2-2. 45pm Demonstration of BG Base
8 The availability of data on in situ conservation of plant genetic
resources of Central America
9 Refining the focus and objectives of the project
- geographical coverage
- habitat coverage
- species coverage
- inclusion of landraces
Wednesday 9 March
9-11. 30am Discussion
10 Refining the focus and objectives of the project (cont'd)
11. 30am- 12. 30pm Demonstration of GIS
12. 30- 1.30pm Lunch
1.30-5. 30pm Discussion
1 1 Data collection and exchange - technical aspects
12 Institutional arrangements for collaboration and data exchange
13 Technology transfer and training
Thursday 10 March
9-1 lam Discussion
14 Planning of scoping workshop - venue, participants, finance,
preparation of key discussion documents
11am- lpm Conclusions
The afternoon will be free for further informal discussions and demonstrations at the Centre.
Dr Daniel Debouck, International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPGRI)
Harriet Gillett, WCMC
Mr Luis Guillermo Gonzalez, President of the National Commission for Plant Genetic
Resources of Costa Rica (CONAREFI).
Sara Oldfield, WCMC
Dr John Peacock, International Centre for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas (ICARDA)
Sir Ralph Riley, Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research.
Chris Sharpe, WCMC
Dr Roger Smith, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
Jane Villa-Lobos, Smithsonian Institution.
Dr Kerry Walter, Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh.
PU (WCMC) - MAIL file as of 29 MAR 1994 Page 1
elegates at Plant Genetic Resources Workshop 8-10 March 1994 at WCMC
ML. MAILING LABEL.
5034 Dr. Ir. Daniel G. Debouck,
Genetic Diversity Research
IPGRI Americas Group
Oficina Regional para las
c/o CIAT A. A.
O W: (5723) 675050 X329
F: (5723) 647243
ciat-ipgri@cgnet . com
5510 Ms. Harriet J. Gillett, Research I W: (0223) 277314
World Conservation Monitoring
219 Huntingdon Road
Cambridge CB3 0DL
H: 0223 322604
F: (0223) 277316
5755 Mr Luis Gmo Gonzalez, Presidente I W:
tComision Nacional de Recursos H:
Apdo. 10309 (1000) F:
(506) 297 0449
5752 Dr Shaun L A Hobbs, Head of
Plant Breeding and Genetics
Wallingford, Oxon OX10 8DE
I W: (0491) 832111
F: (0491) 833508
cabi@cgnet . com
J255 Ms. Sara F. Oldfield
World Conservation Monitoring
219 Huntingdon Road
Cambridge CB3 0DL
I W: (0223) 277314
H: 0767 677558
F: (0223) 277136
sara . oldf ield@wcmc . org . uk
>754 Dr John M Peacock, Cereal
The International Center for
Agricultural Research in the Dry
PO Box 5466
I W: 963 21 213 477
F: 963 21 213 490
753 Sir Ralph Riley
16 Gog Magog Way
757 Mr Roger Smith
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
Haywards Heath, Sussex RH17 6TN
I H: (0223) 843845
W: 081 332 5080
F: 0444 892714
TPU (WCMC) - MAIL file as of 29 MAR 1994 Page 2
Delegates at Plant Genetic Resources Workshop 8-10 March 1994 at WCMC
MAIL. MAILING LABEL TY PHONE/FAX/EMAIL.
4209 Ms. Jane Villa-Lobos,
IUCN/SI/WCMC Latin American
Department of Botany, NHB-166
Washington, DC 20560
I W: 202-357-2027
mnhbo019@Bivm. si . edu
4252 Dr. Kerry S. Walter
Royal Botanic Garden
Edinburgh EH3 5LR
I W: 031 552-7171 EXT 246
H: 031-556 1910
F: 031 552-0382
CONSERVATION AND SUSTAINABLE UTILISATION OF
PLANT GENETIC RESOURCES OF CENTRAL AMERICA
The project, Conservation and sustainable utilisation of plant genetic resources of Central
America focuses on the identification, management and economic valuation of in situ plant
genetic resources of Central America. The project aims to mobilise the existing network of
botanical expertise, together with a large consortium of governmental and non-governmental
agencies, to build the capacity of in-country institutions to monitor, manage and evaluate
their plant genetic resou r ces. The information generated will remain with the national
agencies, but arising out of the regional assessment will be a set of guidelines and database
tools for assisting other countries to undertake reviews of their own in situ genetic resources.
These guidelines will then be promulgated through the 1996 FAO Conference on the
Conservation and Sustainable Use of Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Sustainable
As specified in the project proposal, the objectives of the project are:
i. to assess the status, distribution and threats to the most economically
important wild plants and their wild relatives in Central America.
ii. to determine current and potential uses and economic benefits of the plant
genetic resources of the region.
iii. to promote the conservation of genetic variation amongst the wild progenitors
and landraces of agricultural crop plants in the region.
iv. to reinforce the economic values of plant genetic resources as an incentive for
countries in the region to conserve their biodiversity.
v. to build the capabilities of the national institutions within the region to
identify, evaluate and utilise their plant genetic resources as a key component
of the biological wealth of the countries.
vi. to develop a methodology and operational practice for quantifying the status,
use and economic values of plant genetic resources that can be applied in
other regions of the world.
The project is thus broad in its scope and ambitious in its objectives. If the objectives are to
be reached, careful planning and extensive collaboration will be essential. Funding for the
initial phase of the project provides a valuable opportunity to prepare for this major initiative
in plant genetic resource appraisal and conservation. The first phase of the project is
essentially a feasibility exercise. Preliminary discussions have been held with IPGRI, FAO,
and RBG Kew. InBio, COPRA, RBG Edinburgh, WWF, IUCN and others have been
contacted to introduce the project and invite participation. Consultation is currently being
extended to a wider network including the organisations listed in Annex 1. The planning and
appraisal meeting brings together a small selected group of experts to discuss the scope and
practicalities of the project.
The meeting will identify further participating organisations and the working relationships
between them. It will also refine the scope of the project in terms of the species, habitats and
geographical area to be covered. This discussion paper has been prepared as a background
document for the meeting, to identify the key issues involved and to provide information, in
the Annexes, to substantiate the discussions.
Participants and Networking
Discussions with IPGRI and FAO have emphasised the fundamental need to ensure full
involvement with national partners in Central America from the outset of the project. The
main national organisations have been identified. They will be invited to join the initiative
following the development of a preliminary strategy at the planning and appraisal meeting.
It is anticipated that all relevant national agencies will be invited to the scoping workshop to
be held in Central America later in the year. Full NGO involvement will be encouraged, with
further consultation to identify the relevant organisations to invite.
Networking between the genetic resource community in Central America is developing
effectively with the recent creation of REMERFI and COPRA.
Networking between conservation agencies active in the region operates on various levels.
Intergovernmental cooperation is, for example, promoted by CICAD, the Central American
Council for Environment and Development. HJCN's regional office for Meso-America
(ORMA) also has a key role to play in promoting collaboration within the region.
Networking between botanists is also well-established within the region. The preparation of
Flora Mesoamericana is a major collaborative venture between botanists inside and outside
the region. The botanical community has also collaborated very effectively in the collection
of information on threatened plants. One result is the development of the major review,
Threatened plants of Central America, which is being published by the Smithsonian
Institution and WCMC.
The extent to which farmers and local communities can be reached by the project will need
to be further considered. Discussions with RBG Kew have initially emphasised the difficulties
of trying to involve local people in a broad initiative of this nature, particularly where they
are not involved in the NGO networks. It may however be possible to link with existing
initiatives such as the Plants for People initiative of UNESCO, WWF and RBG Kew.
The current project allows the opportunity to bring together the different interest groups, to
facilitate information exchange and action planning. Preliminary discussions have indicated
that the development of complementarity of studies and closer collaboration should be one
of the main benefits of this initiative.
One of the key objectives of the project is to assess the status, distribution and threats to the
most economically important plants and their wild relatives in Central America. There is an
extensive and growing body of literature on the economic and other useful plants of the
region from which species lists can be drawn. From such information it may be necessary
to select certain genera and/or species for priority consideration and various plant groups
have been suggested.
1. Fruit trees and vegetables.
2. Groups considered as priorities for attention by REMERFI, as identified at the Second
Preparatory meeting, (see Annex 2).
3. Wild relatives of crop species.
4. Timber species.
5. Threatened wild plant species.
The project's emphasis on economic plants has been questioned with the suggestion that
socially important plants should also be considered.
Data collection and exchange
A clear need has been recognised during preliminary project discussions for coordination of
information collection and storage for the in situ conservation of plant genetic resources.
Whereas common formats for data collection and procedures for data exchange are well-
established on an international basis for ex situ plant conservation, particularly for crop
genetic resources, this is not yet the case for in situ conservation.
Priorities for discussion at an early stage will be mechanisms and formats for exchange of
information, the extent to which it is practical and desirable to compare and link the datasets
of key organisations and existing networks, and how major gaps in the existing data can be
filled. It will be useful to discuss the respective roles of different organisations
Procedures for the collection of field data need to be addressed. Methodologies are, for
example, needed to locate populations to be conserved in situ, and also methods for
monitoring and managing these populations once located.
In general it would appear that inventory of the plant genetic resources within protected areas
remains a priority in Central America. Once this information is collected and collated it will
be important to assess to the extent to which the genetic resources of a particular species are
The Genetic Diversity Group of IPGRI plays a key role in the development of methodologies
for collecting for ex situ conservation. Ecogeographical survey methodology is being
developed for collecting purposes and has been tested in Morocco, Pakistan and Syria on
vegetable species. The relevance of such techniques for in situ conservation purposes could
be considered. IPGRI is also looking at the prediction and measurement of genetic erosion
and the social and economic aspects of collecting formats.
It is intended that a forestry expert based in the Latin American Office of IPGRI, will work
on the development of ecogeographical surveys for individual timber species. The species
chosen will be decided locally by collaborating institutions.
Organisations involved in Plant Genetic Resource Conservation in Central America
This overview is far from complete, but indicates the range of key organisations, which are
likely to be involved in the project, outlining their current activities.
A recently established regional network which promotes the conservation and, through plant
breeding and biotechnology, the utilisation of plant genetic resources. REMERFI is
sponsored by CATIE, FAO, IPGRI and ICCA.
Consortium on Plant Resources of the Americas (COPRA)
The intention of COPRA is to promote and enhance cooperation in the study, rational use
and conservation of useful plant resources of the Americas. An information system is planned
- develop and maintain relevant databases and directories of plant resources projects
- develop a network index to plant resource databases
- identify gaps in knowledge with regard to plant resources
The Smithsonian Institution (Department of Botany) is providing an interim base for COPRA.
Other organisations involved in the creation of COPRA include: AID, Office of Forestry,
Environment & Natural Resources, USA; BGCI; IUCN/SI Latin American Plants Project;
Instituto Nacional Indigenista, Mexico; Missouri Botanical Garden; New York Botanical
Garden; The Nature Conservancy Latin America Program; USDA, National Germplasm
System; WCMC; WRI; WWF-US, Biodiversity Support Program.
It is intended to involve all relevant national organisations in the countries concerned and
regional bodies such as REMERFI.
The Tropical Agricultural Research and Training Center (CATIE):
CATIE plays a central role in the coordination of research and training in relation to the
biodiversity of Central America. The member countrie of CATIE are Costa Rica, Dominican
Republic, Guatemals, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama. One of CATlE's technical
activities is the REnewable Natural Resources Department, which has four programmes:
agroforestry, silviculture, wildlands and watershed management. One of the primary
objectives of the wildlands programme is managing protected areas in Central America and
elsewhere in Latin America, including in situ genetic resource conservation. Other services
provided by CATIE include maintenance of the Central America regional fruit germplasm
collection; and Informacidn y Documentacidn Fcrestal para America Tropical (INFORAT).
CATIE, with technical support from IUCN, is currently managing a project called
"Conservation for sustainable development in Central America. " Activities under this include
the planning of an integrated system of protected areas for the Department of El Peten in
Guatemala and the sustainable use of non-timber products by local communities in the area
of Talamanca in Costa Rica.
IUCN Regional Office for Meso-America (ORMA)
ORMA is responsible for regional; programmes on wetlands, wildlife management and
marine and coastal resources. In 1992 the Regional Office set up a GIS Unit. Geographical
databases have been prepared for projects in Nicaragua and Costa Rica and a general
database for Costa Rica which includes information about protected areas and forest cover
for the whole country. Databases are currently being prepared for the Forestry Pilot Project
in Peten, Guatemala; for Trifino, between Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador; and for
the Lago Atitlan Basin in Guatemala.
Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR)
CGIAR was founded in 1971 as an independent, international consortium sponsored by FAO,
the World Bank and UNDP. The CGIAR, which is serviced by a Secretariat (based at the
World Bank, Washington, DC) and advised on scientific issues by a Technical Advisory
Committee, TAC (based at FAO, Rome) carries out agricultural research through activities
of its 17 International Agricultural Research Centres including CIAT, and CIMMYT.
CIAT - Centro Internacional de Agriculture Tropical. Apartado Aereo 6713, Cali, Colombia.
A CGIAR Centre, founded in 1967. Focuses on germplasm development (with global
mandate for beans, cassava and tropical forages) and on resource management research in
Latin America and the Caribbean.
The Phaseolus bean collection consists of about 36,000 accessions, both cultivars and wild
species. CIAT has preserved more than 20,000 forage accessions of more than 750 wild
legume and grass species. The 5500 cassava accessions are mostly cultivated clones of
Manihot esculenta, collected in primary centres of genetic diversity in South and Central
America. CIAT conserves cassava germplasm both in the field and as an in vitro collection.
CIAT emphasises a better understanding of the genetic diversity of the germplasm
collections. Intensive research is under way in areas such as the origins of crops, improved
observation methods, numerical taxonomy of key species, use of isozymes to study genetic
structures, and molecular and biochemical finger printing (FAO, 1993).
CIMMYT - Centro Internacional de Mejoramiento de Maiz y Trigo. PO Box 6641, Mexico
06600 DF, Mexico.
A CGIAR centre, founded in 1966. Focuses on crop improvement, research covers maize,
wheat, barley and triticale. CIMMYT collects, evaluates, documents and maintains maize
and wheat genetic resources for future and current use by agricultural researchers worldwide.
CIMMYT staff monitor populations of landraces and teosinte through regular visits to
farmers' fields and natural habitats in Mexico and Guatemala.
UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)
The mandate of FAO is to support development efforts in fisheries, forests and agriculture.
It provides technical assistance in its fields of competence; facilitates the free exchange of
information and know-how between nations and assists member countries in the execution
of field programmes in support of sustainable agricultural development.
In 1962, FAO established a Panel of Experts on Plant Exploration and Introduction. This
Panel was mandated to advise FAO on matters relating to plant genetic resources, and to help
develop international guidelines for the collection, conservation and exchange of crop
germplasm. A Panel of Experts on Forest Gene Resources was established in 1968 and
remains active. One of its tasks is the regular updating of a list of species and provenances
for which priority action is recommended in the field of exploration, conservation, collection,
evaluation and utilisation.
FAO's work on plant genetic resources encompasses the following activities:
i. provision of an intergovernmental forum for discussion and negotiation - the
Commission on Plant Genetic Resources,
ii. provision of policy guidance through internaitonlly agreed documents (eg
International Undertaking on Plant Genetic Resources approved in 1983)
iii. collection, analysis and dissemination of information through its World
Information and Early Warning System on Plant Genetic Resources,
iv. provision of technical assistance to developing countries.
FAO has convened three International Technical Conferences on plant genetic resources and
a fourth is planned for 1996. This Conference, at which documentation on the State of the
World's Plant Genetic Resources will be examined and an Action Plan presented, will include
forest genetic resources as an explicit component of its programme.
The International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (EPGRI)
IPGRI is an independent institute of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural
Research (CGIAR), which has developed from the International Board for Plant Genetic
Resources (IBPGR). The mandate of IPGRI is to advance the conservation and use
of plant genetic resources for the benefit of present and future generations. The objectives
of IPGRI are:
i. to assist countries, particularly developing nations, to assess and meet their
needs for conservation of plant genetic resources, and to strengthen links with
users of plant genetic resources.
ii. to build international collaboration in the conservation and use of plant genetic
iii. to develop and promote improved strategies and technologies for plant genetic
resources, and integrated methods of conservation.
iv. to provide an information service to inform the world's genetic resources
community of both practical and scientific developments in the field.
IPGRI's work is carried out through collaboration with national institutions and research
bodies. Providing technical support and training for national programmes is the basis for the
work of the Institute.
The focus of IPGRI's work is shifting to in situ conservation and the current WCMC project
is seen as an essential next step in the collation of the necessary data. IPGRI is also
expanding its role to cover forest genetic resources and again in situ is going to be the
priority. Particular emphasis will be given to species with commercial and socio-economic
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
UNEP was established in 1973 and charged with working with governments, other UN
organisations and NGOs around the world to coordinate and catalyse action on the global
UNEP coordinates the Global Environment Monitoring System (GEMS) and the Global
Resource Information Database (GRID), elements of the United Nations Earthwatch
programme. GEMS is a collective international programme to acquire, through global
monitoring and assessment, the data that are needed for the rational management of the
environment. GRID provides an environmental data management service throughout the
United Nations. Data from satellites, aircraft and ground survey are incorporated into the
system. WCMC is currently negotiating formal status as the biodiversity node of GEMS.
UNEP Harmonization of Environmental Measurement office (UNEP-HEM) as part of GEMS
is involved in a number of catalytic and coordinating activities aimed at improving the
compatibility of environmental data on a global coverage. UNEP-HEM has recognised the
importance of developing an improved, practical and widely-acceptable global classification
scheme for vegetation classification. It has been considering various approaches to this
problem in close cooperation with WCMC and also the International Geosphere Biosphere
Programme core project Global Change and Terrestrial Ecosystems (IGBP-GCTE).
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
UNDP has developed Environmental Management Guidelines, as a means of incorporating
principles of environmental management into its work. UNDP funds a wide range of
environmental projects including those which encourage sustainable development and the
improvement of the 'quality of human life'.
Unesco has responsibility for the World Heritage Convention (The Convention concerning
the protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage). This aims to protect natural and
cultural areas of 'outstanding universal value' as World Heritage Sites.
The conservation of tropical forests is an integral part of the Unesco Man and the Biosphere
(MAB) Programme. A set of five interlinked types of tropical research activity is undertaken
within the framework of the MAB Programme and related Unesco activities:
• biological diversity, traditional ecological knowledge, and integrated
conservation in the humid tropics
• ecological and economic sustainability of tropical rain forest management
• forest regeneration and ecosystem rehabilitation in the humid tropics
• tropical soil fertility and its biological management
• savanna ecology and management; responding to stress and disturbance.
The overall objective of this work is to contribute to the development of sustainable land-
use systems appropriate for the social, cultural and biological characteristics of the
peoples and ecological systems of the humid and sub-humid tropics. Under the MAB
Programme, internationally important areas are protected as Biosphere Reserves. These
are selected and managed as natural or minimally-disturbed representative examples of
the world's ecosystem types. They are also selected to demonstrate the relationship
between conservation and development and may include buffer zones with varying levels
of human use and exploitation.
It is proposed that biosphere reserves be considered as a key element in the establishment
of the FAO network of in situ conservation areas for plant genetic resources and be
incorporated in the FAO Global Plan of Action.
The World Conservation Monitoring Centre (WCMC):
WCMC is an independent charity established by IUCN, UNEP and WWF. Its aim is to
support conservation and sustainable development by providing comprehensive and up-to-
date information. WCMC's information resources relevant to this project include: plant
species of conservation concern; important natural habitats and areas of special biological
richness; protected areas; data on plant utilisation and trade and plant conservation
Information on Central American plant species has been collected through liaison with
local botanists by the IUCN-WCMC-Smithsonian Institution Latin American Plants
Project in Washington DC. These data have all recently been included in the Plants
Database of WCMC.
WCMC also receives information on the conservation status of plant species through the
IUCN/ Species Survival Commission (SSC) network of specialist group members, for
example experts of the Palm Group and Cactus and Succulent Group. Both these groups
are preparing Action Plans which include information and recommendations of relevance
to the project.
Information on plant utilisation and trade relates, for example to plants listed under the
CITES Convention and also to international trade in timber species. WCMC holds all the
records of plant trade recorded in the Annual Reports of CITES member states on behalf
of the CITES Secretariat.
Information on the conservation status and trade in tropical timber species has been
collected under contract to the International Tropical Timber Organisation (TTTO);
European Union and National Governments. Further development of the timber data
holdings is planned with financial support expected from the Dutch Government. A
particular focus of this work will be timbers of Latin America through regional
collaboration and data exchange.
At present, the WCMC Plants database has over 3900 species recorded as tropical
timbers or trees, 2560 of which are timbers and 600 recorded as threatened at a global
level. A list of trees of Central America produced as an output of the Database is given
as a supplement to this paper.
WCMC maintains comprehensive data on protected areas of the world. Information is
obtained from official sources (government agencies responsible for administering
protected areas) and elsewhere, through a global network of contacts ranging from policy-
makers and administrators to land managers and scientists. Supporting information is
obtained from published and unpublished literature and other media. A list of the
protected areas of Central America is given in Annex X . Management of information
on natural World Heritage sites and biosphere reserves is undertaken in collaboration with
IUCN and UNESCO. Data sheets on biosphere reserves and World Heritage Sites are
given as a supplement to this paper.
Links have been established between the WCMC Plants database and datasheets on
protected areas. Presence within protected areas has been recorded for some plants
species, for example, on tropical timber species as part of the work for ITTO.
A review of floristic inventories for protected areas in the Tropics was undertaken by
WCMC in 1992, based on information held by the Centre. The following are some of the
protected areas of Central America for which WCMC held plant inventory data.
list (215 spp.)
Extensive higher plant list
Rio Platano Biosphere
Preliminary higher plant list
El Cielo Biosphere
Preliminary higher plant list
Reserva de la Michila
Preliminary higher plant list
Sierra de Manantlan
Comprehensive higher plant
list (1958 spp.)
Sian Ka'an Biosphere
Comprehensive higher plant
list (850 spp.)
Volcan Masaya NP
Preliminary higher plant list
Extensive tree list (290)
Isla Maje Reserve
Preliminary higher plant list
(219 spp.) J
WWF is the world's largest private international conservation organisation with 28
Affiliate and Associate National Organisations around the world and over 4.7 million
WWF's three primary goals are the preservation of global biodiversity, the conservation
of forests, and the conservation of wetlands and coasts. WWF seeks to promote the
conservation and sustainable use of annual, perennial, wild and cultivated plants through
practical field programmes and policy work. One of its four themes in reaching these
plant conservation goals is: germplasm conservation of economically important plants,
notably in situ conservation of wild crop relatives, medicinal plants and species useful for
land reclamation and agroforestry.
Plants for People Programme: this is a joint programme of UNESCO, WWF and Royal
Botanic Gardens Kew. The programme supports ethnobotanists to work with local
communities in tropical countries to record and study the use of wild and semi-cultivated
plant resources and to promote the sustainable use of such resources.
WWF supported projects:
Ethnoflora of the Chinampa Agricultural System, Mexico (Project 6284): WWF is
funding a project to highlight the advantages of this traditional farming system. Based in
San Andres Mixquic, the project has already examined the flora and its uses by local
people. Plant species of global importance have been documented, including teosinte.
Threatened plant uses in protected areas (Project 6466): US/Mexican border.
Ethnobotany in Oaxaca: Since 1985, WWF has been supporting ethnobotanical work in
the state. Research on useful plants has been carried out by Chinantec, Mixtec and Mixe
people who are sponsored by the Sociedad para el Estudio de los Recursos Bioticos de
Oaxaca, Asociacion Civil (SERBO A.C.), a Mexican NGO that combines participatory
studies of ecology and ethnobotany with communal management of forest resources.
Central America: Forest Ecological Development of Large Scale Forestry Concessions.
Costa Rica: Osa Peninsula Forest Conservation and Management Project (BOSCOSA).
Guatemala: People centred ecodevelopment - Sierra de las Minas Reserve. (Project
Guatemala: Agroecosystems as Conservation Resource in Neotropics. (Project GT0013)
Guatemala: Participatory forestry planning for Mayan comuniites. (Project 9626)
Honduras: documentation of resources of Rio Platano Biosphere Reserve. (Project
Honduras: Integrated management of the northern zone of the Rio Platano Reserve.
(Project HN085 1.01)
Mexico: Conservation and sustainable use of resources in Sian Ka'an Reserve. (Project
Mexico: Sierra La Laguna Biosphere Reserve Establishment and Management. (Project
MX0030) - work has included evaluating and researching the flora associated with honey
bee production; and the pigeon pea Cajanus cajan populations. (Project MX0030)
Mexico: Diagnostic study and evaluation of El Ocote Ecological Reserve. (Project
Mexico: Community development and natural resource management in the Calakmul
Biosphere Reserve. (Project MX0853.1)
Mexico: Planning and managing the Sierra de Manantlan Biosphere Reserve. (Project
Mexico: Conservation of tropical rain forests in Chiapas. (Project 3246)
Mexico: Community development and natural resource management in El Ocote,
Chiapas. (Project 9513)
Panama: Management and sustainable development of Darien Biospohere Reserve.
Panama: Management of La Amistad National Park. (Project PA0004)
The National Biodiversity Institute (INBio) is a non-profit and private Costa Rican
institution established in 1989. InBio is dedicated to the conservation of wild land
biodiversity through facilitating its nondestructive intellectual and economic uses both
nationally and internationally. INBio operates under the assumption that a developing
tropical society will only conserve a major portion of its wild biodiversity if this area can
generate enough intellectual and economic income to pay for its own upkeep and also
make a contribution to the national economy.
The INBio Association is governed by an Assembly of Founders and a Board of
Directors. INBio works closely with many other public and private institutions, both in
Costa Rica and overseas.
The divisions of INBio are:
- The Division of National Biodiversity Inventory
This Division is undertaking a comprehensive inventory of all taxa through broad
participation. The basic field work is conducted by "parataxonomists" working out of
local Biodiversity Offices. They are guided by INBio curators who work with a network
of national and international curators and taxonomic specialists. Identified reference
collections, field guides and electronic identification services such as expert systems are
being developed. All information on the species, geographic distributions, and natural
history are in the public domain and will be freely networked internationally.
The Division of Biodiversity Prospecting
Biodiversity prospecting is focused on the search for interesting chemicals produced by
plants, insects and micro-organisms, that may be of use to the pharmaceutical and
medical industry. Expansion is anticipated in areas such as pesticides and other industrial
chemicals, and in the search for potentially valuable genes.
The biodiversity prospecting and research process is carried out both in Costa Rican
institutions, and in collaboration with foreign institutions of higher education and
The recent contract between INBio and Merck, Inc. , is an example of collaboration with
the commercial sector. Research samples collected in government-owned conserved wild
lands are managed under a specific agreement with the Ministry of Natural Resources,
Energy and Mines (MIRENEM). These samples are passed to the commercial user under
contract, who in turn pays INBio's costs - and therefore, indirectly the conserved wild
lands' costs. Ten percent of all fees paid by the commercial user are paid directly into
MIRENEM' s budget. Half of any royalties will go directly to MIRENEM; the other half
will be used to maintain the INBio process.
The Division of Biodiversity Information Management
INBio's biodiversity information (specimen data, literature and field data) is growing
rapidly, and when coupled with relevant supporting information such as topographic
maps, soil maps, climate data, land use, and much more, the data package is extremely
complex. Data management, including the development of GIS, is being undertaken in
collaboration with Intergraph Corporation of Huntsville, Alabama, USA, and various
other agencies. New technologies, including artificial intelligence and field data collection
devices such as GeoPositioning Systems are being researched.
The Division of Biodiversity Information Distribution
Through this Division, INBio distributes biodiversity information widely throughout
society. Activiites include making available natural history and taxonomic information to
schools and universities, commenting on commercial development of conserved wild
lands, working with legislators, being a member of policy-making commissions and
symposia, training staff of conservation areas, producing hard copy field guides and other
kinds of biodiversity literature and holding national and international planning meetings.
The Nature Conservancy
Established in 1951, The Nature Conservancy is an international, non-profit
environmental organisation, sited in the USA, which is committed to the protection of
natural diversity. The Nature Conservancy works with local conservation organisations
throughout Latin America, helping to build their conservation capacity. A current
cooperative campaign involving more than 30 conservation organisations, is 'Parks in
Peril ' . This aims to improve management of 200 key protected sites in Latin America
and the Caribbean by the end of the century.
The Nature Conservancy is involved in the establishment and operation of a network of
Conservation Data Centres (CDCs), through the provision of technical, scientific and
administrative support and training. The Conservancy also makes available the computer
technology, data inventory and management methodology and procedure manuals on
which the CDC network is based.
Conservation Data Centres
The CDCs in Central America are:
CDC-Guatemala: Universidad de San Carlos
CDC-Costa Rica: Programa de Patrimonio Natural (Fundacion Neotropica).
Centro de datos para la conservacion de la naturaleza en Sonora, Mexico.
World Resources Institute (WRI)
WRI, sited in Washington DC, is an independent research and policy institute founded
in 1982 to help governments, environmental and development organisation and the private
sector, address sustainable resource use and development issues. The work of WRI
focuses on six broad areas: climate, energy and pollution; forests and biodiversity;
economics; technology; resource and environmental information; and institutions.
The mission of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew is to ensure better management of the
Earth's environment by increasing knowledge and understanding of the plant kingdom.
Kew is involved in major biodiversity research programmes in many parts of the world
and has collaborative links with botanical institutions worldwide. In the Central American
region, for example, Kew has strong links with InBio in Costa Rica and UNAM.
The focus for collaboration in this project will Kew's interdepartmental Drylands Group.
Included within this are the Seed Bank and SEPASAL project. The Seed Bank stores and
assesses the conditions of storage for wild species with a focus on arid and semi-arid land
plants. The staff have extensive collecting experience and knowledge of policy issues
relating to genetic resource conservation.
The Plants for Arid and Semi-arid Lands (SEPASAL) project, within Kew's Centre for
Economic Botany, brings together diverse traditional and academic knowledge on useful
plants of drylands. The database is used to provide development organisations and
individual research workers with information on useful plants and to target species for
germplasm collection and storage. At present the database contains information on
approximately 6000 dryland species, excluding major crop species. About 2000 of these
are Central American plants, with a particular focus on Mexican species.
Data currently held in the SEPASAL database include: scientific name (including
synonyms); geographical distribution (to country or state level); life form and life cycle;
habit; uses (linked to plant part used) and site and climate tolerances. An extensive
upgrade of the database has recently begun. The number of species covered is being
increased, and additional information on the species and use groups of particular interest
is being added. The upgraded database will run on desk-top computers.
Alongside the SEPASAL database, Kew maintains an Economic Botany Bibliographic
Database which currently contains citations to more than 150,000 references dealing with
plants of economic value.
Natural History Museum
The Natural History Museum is the main focus for Central American botany within the
UK. Flora Mesoamericana is a collaborative project organised by the Museum, UNAM
and Missouri Botanical Garden. The Flora will be a concise guide to the identity and
distribution of the approximately 18,000 species of flowering plants and ferns in tropical
Middle America, from the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in southern Mexico to the
Other work being carried by Museum staff in relation to Central America include close
collaboration with INBio and work on forest management in Belize. Scientists from the
Museum have worked with Cost Rican biologists at InBio since its inception. They have
made a considerable training input to the parataxonomists and curatorial staff. External
funding has been secured for young Costa Rican biologists to work in the Natural History
Museum to gain experience in collections management and familiarity with a wide range
The Oxford Forestry Institute (OFI):
OFI is a world centre for forest research, development and education. The Institute's
Forest Genetics Group, has established over three decades of activity, expertise in most
key issues of forest genetic resources, in collaboration with many national agencies and
institutions. The Group's programme areas are:
i. exploration, acquisition and systematics
ii. population genetics and reproductive biology
iii. distribution and evaluation
iv. quantitative genetics and breeding strategy
Central America has been one of the two main geographical focuses for the work of the
Forest Genetics Group. Since 1963, OFI has made collections in the entire Central
American region for provenance and progeny trials, especially of pines. Since 1980 it has
also made collections of tropical broadleaf trees from arid and semi-arid zones of Central
Recent and current research projects relating to Central America include:
Intensive study ofLeucaena genetic resources in Central America and Mexico. ODA-
funded project R4524 from 1.1.90 to 31.12.94.
Intensified transfer afforest genetic technology and information in C. America. (CATTE
Tree Improvement project) ODA-funded project from 1.11.92 to 31.10.95.
Exploration and collection of Calliandra calothyrsus. ODA-funded project R4485 from
1.10.90 to 30.9.93. - This project involved field collecting in Mexico and elsewhere in
Evaluation of geentic variation in Gliricidia sepium. ODA-funded project R4525 from
1.11.89 to 31.9.92.
Other work includes collaboration with staff of the ODA-funded COSEFORH
(Conservacidn y Mejoramiento de Recursos Forestales de Honduras) project in Honduras
on biodiversity of the coniferous forests of Central America.
BRAHMS (Botanical Research and Herbarium Management System) is an information
system which has evolved in association with the forest genetics programme. The system
stores and monitors species information and botanical data derived from herbarium
specimens. It has a broad range of routine and research oriented management functions,
such as preparing species checklists and distribution maps. Applications of BRAHMS
(which runs on FoxPro software) include the compilation of species checklists for the
states of Oaxaca and Nayarit, Mexico undertaken by the main herbarium in Mexico
(MEXU). Also under this project BRAHMS is used to study areas of special interest in
the Tehuantepec region and the Tehuacan Valley. In Honduras, a project to establish a
national data collection network at five sites was initiated in 1992, using the BRAHMS
system. This links in with an existing project at the Paul C. Standley herbarium at El
Universidad Autdnoma Nacional de Mexico (UNAM)
UNAM is a leading centre of excellence for botanical and ethnobotanical research and
plant conservation activities.
A wide range of field projects are undertaken with, for example, botanical research being
undertaken in the Lacandon Region, and studies of the biogeography, distribution and
conservation status of the cacti of the Chihuahuan Desert.
US Department of Agriculture (USD A):
USD A is actively involved in the assessment of plant genetic resources and biodiveristy.
The USD A Economic Botany Laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, maintains a database
on minor economic plant species.
New York Botanical Garden
(Michael Balick, Director of Economic Botany) has a collaborative project with the Belize
Ministry of Health, the Departments of Archaeology and Forestry and the Belize Centre
for Environmental Studies. The Belize Ethnobotany Project involves screening of
medicinal plants for active ingredients based on ethnobotanical uses and traditional
Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix, Arizona.
FLORUTIL Project - surveying the rare and useful plants of the border states of US and
Economically and socially important plants of Central America
Anacardium excelsum (marandn)
Annona muricata (soursop) REMERFI priority
A. purpurea (soncoya)
A. scleroderma (posh-te)
Ananas comosus (pineapple) REMERFI priority
Bactris gasipaes (peach palm) REMERFI priority (IPGRI neglected crop project)
Byrsonima crassifolia (nance)
Carica papaya (papaya): originated in lowlands of eastern central America but is no
longer known in the wild. REMERFI priority
Casimiroa edulis (white sapote, zapote bianco)
Coccoloba uvifera (sea-grape)
Diospyros digyna (black sapote)
Hylocereus ocamponis (pitaya) REMERFI priority
Inga edulis (ing£-cip6)
Leucaena leucocephala (leucaena, guaje)
Malpighia emarginata (Barbados cherry, acerola)
Muntingia calabura (Jamaica cherry)
Myrciaria floribunda (Rumberry)
Passiflora edulis REMERFI priority (IPGRI neglected crop project)
Passiflora ligularis (sweet granadilla)
P. quadrangularis (giant granadilla)
Persea americana (avacado): Primitive wild relatives are restricted to small areas in
Central America. Persea americana continues to exist as a wild plant in small areas of
Central America, occurring for example in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve,
Corcovado National Park and La Selva Biological Reserve of Costa Rica. REMERFI
Pouteria campechiana (yellow sapote, zapote amarillo)
Pouteria sapota (zapote mamey)
- The Sapotaceae in general are a REMERFI priority
Prunus salicifolia (capuh'n)
Rollinia mucosa (biriba)
Psidium guajaba (guava) REMERFI priority
Spondias purpurea (Jamaica plum) REMERFI priority
Spices and stimulants
Bixa orellana (annatto) REMERFI priority
Capsicum annuum (chili pepper): wild peppers are still collected and sold locally.
Eryngium foetidum (culantro) REMERFI priority
Fernaldia pandurata (loroco) REMERFI priority
Pimenta dioica (pimento, allspice): pimento is derived from the dried unripe fruits of
Pimenta dioica a small evergreen tree of Central America and the Caribbean. Jamaica
is the main country of commercial production and allspice is also collected from the wild
in Central America. Currently Guatemala (and Mexico) supply almost 30% of the
international market. REMERFI priority
Theobroma cacao (cocoa): Centre of cultivation is Central America. REMERFI priority
Theobroma angustifolium (cacao silvestre)
Vanilla planifolia (vanilla): is the most important spice of the New World. Native to
Central America, this climbing orchid was used in pre-Colombian times by the Aztecs
as a flavouring for chocolate. It was first introduced to Europe in around 1510. Now
countries which grow vanilla include Madagascar, the Seychelles, Reunion and the
Comoros Islands. REMERFI priority
Arracacia xanthorrhiza Peruvian carrot REMERFI priority
Capsicum spp. (capsicum peppers) REMERFI priority
Chamaedorea tepejilote (pacaya) REMERFI priority
Chenopodium berlanderi (huanzontle) REMERFI priority
Cnidoscolus chayamansa (chaya) REMERFI priority
(see also Cnidoscolus spp. under miscellaneous below)
Crotalaria spp. (chipilin) REMERFI priority
Cucurbitaceae (cucurbits) REMERFI priority
Lycopersicon esculentum (tomato): land races. All wild relatives (spp. in South America)
have limited ranges. REMERFI priority
Opuntia spp. (nopal) REMERFI priority
Physalis philadelphica (Mexican husk tomato) REMERFI priority (IPGRI neglected crop
Sechiwn edule (chayote) REMERFI priority (IPGRI neglected crop project)
Solarium americanum (yerba mora) REMERFI priority
Solarium spp.: One of the main centres of diversity of wild species of potato is in central
Roots and tubers
Dioscorea spp. (yam): REMERFI priority
Ipomoea batatas (sweet potato): REMERFI priority
Manihot spp.: Southwestern Mexico is one of the main centres of diversity for wild spp.
with 16 spp (FAO, 1984). Manihot esculenta is a cultigen unknown in the wild.
Xanthosoma sagittifolium (tiquisque) REMERFI priority
Xanthosoma sp. (malanga) REMERFI priority
Beans and other legumes
Pachyrhizus erosus (Mexican yam bean): native to SW Mexico. See NAS (1979) - and
also for other legumes of the region. REMERFI priority
Phaseolus lunatus (lima bean): populations of several taxa are being lost to overgrazing
in northern Mexico.
Phaseolus vulgaris (haricot bean): some wild relatives in Mexico are in need of
Zea mays, Zea perennis, Tea diploperennis (maize):
The two wild subsp. of maize, Zea mays var. mexicana and Zea mays var. parviglumis
are vulnerable. The three other Zea spp. should probably be considered endangered, two
having highly restircted distributions in Jalisco, Mexico and the third in southeastern
Guatemala and northern Honduras the closest to extinction because of grazing pressures
Zea diploperennis is protected in the Sierra de Manantlan Biosphere Reserve (Mexico.).
Tripsacum spp. (relative of maize):
Several species with limited ranges in Mexico may be at risk (FAO, 1984).
There are many economically important timber species in the region. Two examples
which have been heavily exploited and are now listed on CITES Appendix II are:
Swietenia mahagoni, a species of true mahogany generally known as American
mahogany, Cuban mahogany, or Honduran mahogany is native to Central America and
the Caribbean. It has been important in international commerce since the sixteenth
century. Stocks are now severely depleted and the species provides an extreme example
of genetic erosion.
Lignum vitae or guayaco Guaiacum officinale, a species of dryer tropical forest areas of
Central America and the Caribbean.
Other timber species, many of which are threatened in all or part of their range, are
listed below. A more comprehensive list of the threatened tree species of Central America
is given as a supplementary document.
Abies guatemalensis (Guatemalan fir)
Alfaroa manningii (Gavilan Colorado)
Alnus jorullensis (Jaul)
Aspidosperma megalocarpum (Chichique)
Astronium graveolens (Goncalo alves)
Batocarpus costaricensis (Ojoche macho)
Bombacopsis quinata (Pochote)
Brysonima crassifolia (Nance)
Calophyllum brasiliense (Santa Maria, jacareuba)
Campnosperma panamensis (Sajo, orey)
Carapa guianensis (Crabwood, andiroba)
Caryocar costaricense (Ajo, aji)
Costilla elastica (Balata)
Cedrela odorata (cigarbox cedar)
Ceiba pentandra (Ceiba)
Cordia alliodora (Pardillo)
Cupressus lusitanica (Mexican cypress)
Cynometra hemitomophylla (Guapinol negro)
Dalbergia retusa (Coccoloba)
Dalbergia stevensonii (Honduras rosewood)
Dialium guianense (Jutahy)
Didymopanax morototonii (Jereton)
Enterolobiwn cyclocarpum (Guanacaste)
Guaiacwn sanctum (Lignum vitae, guayacan bianco)
Guarea grandifolia (Muskwood)
Guazuma ulmifolia (Guacimo)
Hymenaea courbaril (Courbaril, guapinal)
Juglans olanchana (Nogal)
Mora oleifera (Nato)
Myroxylon balsamum (Balsamo)
Oreomunnea pterocarpa (Palo Colorado)
Pinus ayacahuite (Mexican white pine)
var. hondurensis (Caribbean pine)
P. chiapensis (Pinabete)
P. oocarpa (Pino Colorado)
P. pseudostrobus (Pino bianco, ocote)
Pithecellobium dulce (Manila tamarind)
Platymiscium pleiostachywn (Cristobal)
Podocarpus guatemalensis (Podo)
Quercus copeyensis (Roble, Copey oak)
Spondias mombin (Hog plum, ciruela)
Swietenia humilis (Pacific Coast mahogany)
S. macrophylla (Bigleaf mahogany, caoba)
Tabebuia guayacan (Cortez)
Tachigali versicolor (Cafia fistula)
Terminalia amazonia (Almendra)
Vantanea barbourii (Caracolillo)
Annona glabra (Anona)
Aristolochia odoratissima (Amargosa, bejuco magico)
Casimiroa edulis (Chapote)
Cecropia peltata (Guarumo)
Chrysobalanus icaco (Icaco, coco plum)
Curatella americana (Sandpaper tree)
Jatropha curcas (Physic nut, pifioncillo)
var. pereirae (Peruvian balsam)
Piper tuberculatum (Buttonwood)
Rauvolfia tetraphylla (Devil pepper)
Strychnos panamensis (Guaco, snale seed)
Talauma mexicana (Flor del corazon)
Until quite recently 95% of all steroids were obtained from extracts of neo-tropical yams
of the genus Dioscorea. Diosgenin derived from the Mexican yam, a rainforest species,
has been the basic material for the production of many steroidal drugs including the birth
control pill. Price increases imposed by the Mexican Government stimulated synthetic
production of diosgenin by pharmaceutical companies and have also led to the search for
new natural sources.
Ornamental plants of economic value in Central America include orchids, bromeliads,
foliage plants, cacti, agaves and other succulents. Many of these are covered by the
The main exporting countries for the genus Tillandsia are Guatemala and Honduras. Data
from World Wildlife Fund-Germany indicates that from January 1988 to March 1988,
c. 6 million plants were exported from Guatemala, primarily to Germany and the
Netherlands. Plants exported include both wild-collected specimens and plants produced
in the local horticultural industry.
Chamaedoreas and their products are used extensively in the floricultural and horticultural
industries. Cut leaves of several species are a staple item in the florist trade of the USA;
many leaves also are imported by Europe. Most of the leaves appear to originate in
Mexico, but some come from Guatemala, Honduras and Costa Rica. In 1986, an
estimated 359,219,000 leaves were imported by the USA (314,419,000 from Mexico;
40,179,000 from Guatemala; 4,145,000 from Costa Rica) (Hodel 1992).
Cycads are traded internationally for specialist horticultural collections. Although many
of the species (Zamiaceae) are. exported by Mexico, countries such as Guatemala,
Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama are also trading in their various native species. Many
of the Central American species are commercially exploited due to the proximity of the
U.S. horticultural market.
Agave spp.: sisal, tequila etc. REMERFI priority. An Action Plan for the conservation
of Agave spp. has been prepared by members of the SSC Cactus and Succulent Specialist
Amaranthus spp. (amaranth) REMERFI priority (IPGRI neglected crop project)
Avicennia germinans (Black mangrove)
Brosimum alicastrwn (Ramon)
Bursera simaruba (Palo mulato)
Carludovica costaricensis (Cuajiote)
Carnegiea giganiea (saguaro): Many local uses as described in: Desert Plants 2(1) Spring
Chamaedorea spp. (Parlor palms)
Cnidoscolus elasticus; Cnidoscolus tepiquensis (chilte): overtapping and habitat
destruction have destroyed many Mexican populations (FAO, 1984).
Cyperus canus (Tule)
Euphorbia antisyphilitica (Candellila) - significant source of income to rural communities.
Many populations lost (FAO, 1984).
Genipa americana (Jenipapo)
Laguncularia racemosa (White mangrove)
Luchea Candida (Algodoncillo)
Manilkara zapota (chicle)
Chicle, the latex of the Central American sapodilla tree Manilkara zapota, is included in
most good quality chewing gums. Long appreciated by Mayan people chicle was first
sweetened and processed for commercial use in the late nineteenth century. Today
"chicleros" still tap wild trees but the the trees are no longer so abundant in the wild. In
Mexico and Guatemala many sapodilla trees are dying prematurely because younger trees
are being tapped and the recovery period between tapping has been reduced. (IPGRI
neglected crop project)
Protium copal (Copal)
Reinhardtiana koschnyana (Window palm)
Rhizophora mangle (Red mangrove)
Schippia concolor (Pimento palm)
Styrax argenteus (Resino)
Trema micrantha (Capulin, white bay-cedar)
CENTRES OF PLANT DIVERSITY
The IUCN Plant Conservation Programme has undertaken a project with collaboration
from botanists around the world to identify the several hundred major Centres of Plant
Diversity (CPD). These are defined as places particularly rich in plant life which would,
if protected, safeguard the majority of wild plants in the world. A three volume
publication is being prepared jointly with WWF. The information collected during the
CPD project will reside at WCMC and the maps are stored in the Biodiversity Map
Central American centres of plant diversity selected for the publication are listed below
with brief notes on their useful plants. Selection of sites and preparation of the data sheets
has been undertaken primarily by botanists within the region.
1. Lacandon Rain Forest Region.
This region occurs in eastern Chiapas between, between the Usumacinta River and the
Perlas and Lacantun rivers. It covers an area of about 6,000 km 2 of which reserves
account for 4,122 km 2 .
The vegetation consists of: tropical and montane rain forests, cloud forest, semideciduous
tropical forest, savanna, pine-oak forest, seasonally flooded forest, gallery forest, open
There flora shows high species diversity, with about 4,000 species of vascular plants and
The Lacandon forest contains important reserves of timber, such as Calophyllum
brasiliense var. rekoi, Cedrela odorata, Cordia spp., Dialium guianense, Lonchocarpus
castilloi, Swietenia macrophylla, Tabebuia guayacan. Other species of economic
importance include Manilkara zapota; Costilla elastica var. elastica, latex used as a
source of rubber; Cymbopetalum penduliflorum — the flowers are used among the Maya
Amerindians for flavouring and medicine; Pimento dioica (allspice), Poulsenia armata,
Pouteria mammosum and many other trees with edible fruits. Brosimum alicastrum has
promising economic potential; the fruits, seeds, leaves, wood, latex and bark all being
Several species of palms (e.g. Geonoma oxycarpa, Scheelea liebmannii) are used by the
local inhabitants for roofing. Additionally, seeds, seedlings and leaves of some small
palms called xate (e.g. Chamaedorea tepejilote, C. oblongata, C. elegans) are collected
for horticulture and exported to the USA.
2. Uxpanapa-Chimalapa Region.
An area of evergreen, semi-evergreen and montane rain forest, covering about 7,700
km 2 in Southeastern Veracruz and eastern Oaxaca. There are no areas set aside for
conservation. The flora has high species endemism.
The region contains important timber resources, including high quality tropical woods as
Cedrela odorata (tropical red-cedar), Calophyllum brasiliense var. rekoi (Santa Maria)
and Swietenia macrophylla and endemics such as Sterculia new sp., much used locally
in the manufacture of fine plywood. A large native population of the important fruit tree
Pouteria sapota (the zapote mamey) is present; there are few such populations elsewhere.
Several non-timber montane species are important in the local economy, especially
palmita (Chamaedorea sp.).
3. Sierra de Juarez, Oaxaca.
An area of mainly montane cloud forest covering about 1,700 km 2 in northeastern Oaxaca
state, Southern Mexico. The flora consists of around 2000 spp. with many endemics.
There are currently no protected areas.
In the Sierra Norte of Oaxaca, which includes the Sierra de Juarez, several indigenous
peoples (Chinantec, Mixe and Mixtec) have extensive knowledge and uses of the flora,
which have been receiving thorough study (Martin and de Avila-B. 1990; Martin 1992).
In the 1970s there were large-scale collections of Dioscorea tubers, used in the synthesis
of birth-control pills. The Sierra de Juarez contains rich timber resources such as Abies,
Pinus, Liquidambar, Quercus. Among the region's various ornamental species are tree
ferns, cycads, pipers, aroids, bromeliads and orchids.
4. Tehuacan-Cuicatlan Region.
This area of about 9000 km 2 southeast of Mexico City in southeastern Puebla and
northern Oaxaca states, has around 2700 plant spp. with about 30% endemic. The
vegetation consists of
several dryland scrub formations with many xerophytic species and some deciduous
forest. The only conservation area is a Botanical garden (1 km 2 ).
Many native species are used traditionally for example as medicinals, food (e.g. cactus
fruits), fibres, fuelwood, living fences, and ceremonially; some are sold in local markets.
Various succulent species and bromeliads are of considerable horticultural value, for
example, cacti, Nolina, Beaucarnea, Dasylirion, Agave, Hechtia, Tdlandsia.
5. Canyon of the Zopilote Region.
An area of mixed scrub and forest vegetation, covering 4,383 km 2 south of Mexico City
in central Guerrero state. There are over plant 2,000 species, with high diversity and
endemic genera and species. Part of the area is protected in the Omitelmi Ecological State
Park and three other areas for reserves have been suggested.
The region is very rich in timber resources. For general purposes including fuelwood,
the following species are used Pinus ayacahuite, P. devoniana (P. michoacana), P.
chiapensis, P. herrerae, Quercus uxoris, Q. laurina, Abies religiosa, A. guatemalensis;
for construction, the palm Brahea dulcis, Cordia elaeagnoides, Pithecellobium dulce; and
for artisanry and carvings, the latter two hardwoods and Actinocheita potentillifolia.
Some species are used in local ceremonies, such as Bursera copallifera (copal) and
Solandra spp. (copa de oro). Among medicinals are Ternstroemia pringlei (te - de tila),
Juniperus flaccida, Magnolia schiedeana and Chiranthodendron pentadactylon (flor de
la manita), which is now cultivated in Europe and USA.
6. Sierra de Manantlan Region and Biosphere Reserve.
Situated in southwestern Jalisco and northeastern Colima, with an area of 1396 km 2 . The
vegetation consists of various forest types including tropical dry forest (which may be the
most diverse in woody species in the world) tropical subdeciduous forest, mesophyllous
montane forest. There are about 2,800 vascular plant species. Endemics reported only
from the Sierra de Manantlan include Zea diploperennis, Agrostis novogaliciana, Populus
guzmanantlensis, Crown wilburii, Cnidoscolus autlanensis, Vernonia pugana.
Wild taxa's germplasm for important crop and tree species (Zea, Phaseolus, Pinw,
Abies); over 500 species used traditionally.
Some species threatened due to selective exploitation are Cedrela odorata, Swietenia
humilis, Fraxinus uhdei, Juglans major, Tilia mexicana, Abies religiosa, Guaiacwn
coulteri, Talauma sp., Magnolia iltisiana.
7. Pacific Lowlands, Jalisco: Chamela Biological Station
and Cumbres de Cuixmala Reserve.
A region of c. 350 km 2 in coastal Jalisco southwest of Guadalajara. An area of 8.6 km 2
is conserved. The vegetation is mainly tropical deciduous forest. The flora shows high
diversity especially of woody plants; 1,120 vascular plant species in 544 genera of 124
families known from region; about 16% of the species are regionally endemic.
The region only has been easily accessible to settlement since a coast highway opened in
1972, there is no local tradition of useful plants. Many residents are from upland Jalisco
or neighboring states (mostly Colima and Michoacan), and have brought common names
and uses from their home areas for application to these sometimes different species.
Examples include Plumeria rubra leaves used to relieve earache, Spondias purpurea fruits
used in a drink, Stenocereus chrysocarpus fruits eaten as a delicacy, and Hura polyandra
used for timber Hintonia latiflora and Physodium adenodes var. adenodes have
Various timber species occur and their woods are locally marketed: Cordia alliodora, C.
dentata, C. elaeagnoides, C. seleriana; Dalbergia congestiflora; Guaiacum coulteri;
Platymiscium lasiocarpum; Swietenia humilis. Already Celaenodendron mexicanum is a
locally choice timber tree for roof beams and building posts.
8. Upper Mezquital River Region, Sierra Madre Occidental.
Western Sierra Madre mountains in the south of Durango state, covering c. 4,600 km 2 .
The vegetation consists principally of conifer, pine-oak and oak forests, tropical dry
forests, and patches of tropical subdeciduous forest. La Michilia Biosphere Reserve (700
km 2 , 70 km 2 as core), live in the temperate forest area.
Out of c. 2,900 species of vascular plants, more than 450 wild species used for
medicinal, food and other purposes by local people including Tepehuan Amerindians.
Many timber species are extracted. Among the species with economic value, are Pinus
durangensis, P. cooperi, P. teocote and P. ayacahuite. Quercus spp. have economic
value for charcoal, and lumber potential. Wild crop relatives include Phaseolus and
A few species, such as Laelia speciosa, are collected to sell in nearby cities as
ornamentals, whereas others such as Senecio sessilifolius (peyotillo) and S. albo-lutescens
(matarique) are sold for medicinal purposes in local markets (cf. M. Gonzalez 1984).
The ethnobotany of the region's mestizos and Tepehuanes has been studied by M.
Gonzalez and R. Galvan (1984, 1991, 1992), and additional works on the useful plants
and agro-ecological practices are in preparation.
9. Gomez Farias Region and El Cielo Biosphere Reserve.
An area of around 2,400 km 2 in southwestern Tamaulipas state.
Vegetation consists of tropical dry forest; tropical semideciduous forest; cloud forest;
oak, pine, and mixed oak and pine forests; desert scrubs or brushlands; riparian
vegetation. There are over 1,000 vascular plant species. 60% of region is in El Cielo
Biosphere Reserve (1,445 km 2 ).
From a report on useful plants of Tamaulipas (Hernandez et al. 1991), the many
following species and uses were derived for the G6mez Farias region: 167 medicinals,
98 edible, 11 fodder, 5 energy sources, 84 timbers, 16 industrial usage, 69 ornamentals.
Several native species are grown in family gardens to provide spices or medicinals. In
the past, cloud forest and oak and pine forests were exploited for their timber; these
forests harbor at least fourteen oak and four pine species.
In the tropical forests are several species with commercial value, such as Bursera
simaruba (gumbo limbo) — wood, resin, incense; Enterolobiwn cyclocarpwn (guanacaste)
— timber, fodder; Cedrela odorata (cedro) — cabinet wood; Tabebuia pentaphylla (cinco
hojas) — timber; Brosimum alicastrum (ojite or ramdn) — wood, food (edible seeds,
potable latex); Lysiloma divaricata (rajador) — timber.
The desert scrublands have various species of local importance, such as Helietta
parvifolia — timber; Acacia berlandieri, Gochnatia hypoleuca, Opuntia spp. — fodder;
Dasylirion spp. — edible, alcohol fermentation, ornamental; Brahea berlandieri — house
building; Agave spp. (e.g. A. lechuguilla), Yucca camerosana — fiber; Quercus spp.,
Rhus microphylla, R. virens, Krameria ramosissima — tannin; and Turnera diffiisa,
Chrysactinia mexicana, Hesperozygis marifolia, Jatropha dioica, Larrea tridentata —
medicinal (Chimal et al. 1989).
Leaves of the small Chamaedorea palm (e.g. C. radicalis, palmilla) are collected and
exported to the USA for floral arrangements. On a much smaller scale, Magnolia
schiedeana flowers and Ternstroemia sylvatica (trompillo) fruits are occasionally
10. Cuatro Cienagas Region.
An intermontane basin area of c. 2,000 km 2 in central Coahuila, northern Mexico.
Vegetation consists of grasslands with aquatic, semiaquatic and gypsum-dune habitats in
valley; desert scrub and chaparral on mountain slopes, with oak-pine woodlands and
montane forests of pine, fir and Douglas-fir. The area has a flora of 860 species in 458
genera of 114 families, 23 species are endemic.
Many plants of this flora are part of traditional medicine used in the rural communities.
The extraction of wood from the Sierra de la Madera is the most extensive exploitation
and threatens the population of Abies durangensis var. coahuilensis.
11. Apachian/Madrean Region of Southwestern North America, including Northwest
Phytogeographic province is the Sierra Madre Occidental, where the Apachian and
Madrean floristic districts interdigitate. Situated largely in northwest Mexico, as far south
as the Sinaloa border with Sonora and Chihuahua, and northward along the continental
divide (Sonora-Chihuahua border region) to southwestern New Mexico and southeastern
Arizona of the United States. The region is approximately 300 km from east to west,
centered on the divide, and 600 km long, from the Chiricahua and Animas mountains in
the United States, to the Rio Mayo, Rio Fuerte, and Rio Verde drainages in Sonora and
The vegetation consists of Madrean montane coniferous forests; oak-coniferous
woodland; tropical deciduous forest; barrancan oak woodland; oak savanna; Madrean
chaparral; short-grass prairie; subtropical thornscrub; and desert fringe.
There are an estimated 3,500-4,000 species of vascular plants. Chiricahua Mountains
support 1200 species, and the Animas Mountain 450 species. The flora of the upper Rio
Mayo region in southeastern Sonora and southwestern Chihuahua includes about 2100
vascular plant species; the flora of the Rio Bavispe region in northeastern Sonora contains
at least 1200 species. High species endemism (on the order of 20-50 percent), and a
large number of species at their northern limits. Many at their eastern or western limits
on the "Deming Bridge."
Most of the region in the United States has some form of protection; National Monument
and Forest Service protection of the Chiricahua Mountains, private foundation protection
of the Animas Mountains, Forest Service protection for other montane habitats. Less than
10 percent of the area in Mexico is currently protected; small areas in national parks and
some mountains under the jurisdiction of the Subsecretary of Ecology (SEDESOL).
Several mountain and other regions protected by private owners. Additionally several
significant areas designated for protection by the state of Sonora.
Threats to the area include a World Bank project, planned $90 million logging; another
$400-600 million of pulping and lumber development already funded or anticipated as a
result of the U.S. /Mexico free trade zone agreement.
An estimated 60-80 wild congeners of major crops, about 10 percent at risk; the highest
diversity of crop land races of 18 pre-Columbian cultivated species anywhere north of the
tropics; and 600-1000 wild useful plants. One globally-endangered domesticate, Panicum
sonorum . and several endangered medicinal plants.
The ethnobotany of the Tarahumara, Guarihio, Mountain Pima, and Sonoran mestizos has
been studied by Bye (1976), Gentry (1942, 1963), Laferriere (1991), Pennington (1963),
and others. An estimated 300 food plants and 450 medicinal plants from this region have
been ethnographically documented. These include large ethnofloral representations of the
Agavaceae, Cactaceae, Fabaceae, and Solanaceae.
It has been estimated that among the regional floras in arid and semi-arid southwestern
North America 18 percent of the species have been utilized by people for food and 20
percent for medicinal purposes (Baker & Felger in prep.; Felger & Nabhan 1978).
About 10 percent of the edible species, or 1.8 percent of the flora, served as major food
resources (Felger 1979). These estimates, based on compilation of known data, are
verified by individual ethnobotanical studies (e.g., Bye 1976, 1985; Felger & Moser
1985; Gentry 1942, 1963; Laferriere 1991; Rea in prep.). For example, the Tarahumara
utilized at least 220 species of plants for food. Their pharmacopoeia includes about 300
plant species (Bye 1985) of which 47 are collected and sold in the urban markets of
northern Mexico (Bye 1986).
As noted above, the region is the richest in wild congeners of domesticated crops of any
area north of the Tropic of Cancer. The genera of A gave . Cucurbita . Phaseolus . Prunus .
and Solanum are well-represented in the region, and 60-100 such species are found
exclusively in the region, about 10 percent of them at risk. At Nabogame, Chihuahua,
the northernmost population of teosinte is disjunct several hundred km from the tropical
range of these wild and weedy corn relatives, where they infrequently introgress with
cultivated maize (Doebley & Nabhan 1989). Native Seed/SEARCH has distributed the
seed of the Nabogame teosinte to make it available for plant breeders. In fact, the
mosaic of wild montane vegetation and Indian fields has provided ideal settings for
studying introgression between wild and domesticated Capsicum . Cucurbita . Phaseolus .
Nabhan (1990a) identified the geographic patterns of eighteen wild Phaseolus species in
the Sierra Madre Occidental. There are several of these bean species endemic to the
Sierras, and yet the region remains undercollected with regard to germplasm resources.
Preliminary results from pollination, DNA and isozyme studies by Robert Bye suggest
reciprocal gene flow between wild Phaseolus coccineus ssp. formosus and the special
domesticate "tekdmari," the P. coccineus ssp. coccineus of the Tarahumara. The
maintenance of gene flow between the wild and the cultivated forms by Tarahumara
agroecological practices (which include the management of nearby forest) may account
for the evolution of this productive scarlet runner bean that is adapted to high mountain
areas with short growing seasons.
Land race diversity of native crops is also richer here than in any other American region
north of the tropics, but this crop variation is rapidly being eroded. Eighteen crop
species, including endemic domesticates of Agave . Lepidium . Hyptis . and Panicum . are
regionally represented in native fields. Wild relatives of domesticated crop plants in the
Apachian-Madrean Region comprise a large list (Nabhan 1991; Nabhan & Felger 1985).
12. Central Region of Baja California.
Southern Baja California Norte and northeastern Baja California Sur statesc, an area of
36,000 km 2 The vegetation consists mainly of xerophilous scrubland or brush. About
40% of the region, 15,000 km 2 , falls within the El Vizcaino Biosphere Reserve. There
are over 500 species of vascular plants; 496 species in El Vizcaino Biosphere Reserve
— 8% locally endemic, others endemic to peninsula.
The region is no longer occupied by indigenous people and there is only very limited
indirect evidence to indicate how they utilized the natural resources. Nevertheless, based
on ethnobotanical information from elsewhere, a good many plants represent potential
genetic reserves with for example succulents valued for horticulture.
13. Sonoran Desert, including Baja California
14. Peten Region and Maya Biosphere Reserve
Situated in northern Guatemala, the Department of Peten
has an area of about 36,000 km 2 , and the Maya Biosphere Reserve covers 15,000-16,000
km 2 . The vegetation consists of subtropical semideciduous moist forest, savanna,
wetlands. Maya Biosphere Reserve includes five national parks, three biotopes and a
multiple-use area — Laguna del Tigre is recognized under RAMSAR, and Tikal is a
World Heritage site.There are about 3,000 plant species in Maya Biosphere Reserve with
distinct regional endemism.
The Peten region is rich in useful plants such as thatching palms, construction materials,
fuelwood, fibers — e.g. Desmoncus sp. (bayal) and Philodendron sp. (mimbre) for
basketry and furniture, forest fruits, medicinal plants, Manilkara zapota (chicozapote),
Chamaedorea spp. (mostly two understory palms) and Pimento dioica. A few studies
have analyzed the economic benefits of a conserving, sustainable use of Guatemala's
tropical forests and renewable resources (Nations et al. 1988; Reining and Heinzman
1992; Salafsky et al. 1993). An estimated 80% of the hardwoods in Guatemala are found
in the Peten, such as Swietenia macrophylla, Cedrela odorata, Calophyllum brasiliense
var. rekoi, Pouteria spp., Bursera simaruba, Spondias, Ficus (Leyden 1984). The Maya
BR contains more than 300 species of useful trees (CONAP 1990).
A potentially important forest resource is foliage and seeds of Brosimwn alicastrum
(ramon). The seeds were an important food source in pre-Colombian times, but present
human consumption is quite low (Heinzman and Reining 1990); the fruits, foliage and
bark are gathered as forage for mules and horses.
Economic Assessment of Nontimber Forest Products
Heinzman and Reining (1990) analyzed some potentially sustainable rural extraction
practices in the northern Peten. Collecting several products more or less sustainably for
export represents a wage resource for over 6,000 people who otherwise subsist mainly
on slash-and-burn ('milpa') agriculture. The total economic return from these nontimber
forest products is greater than if the forest were converted to pasture (Heinzman and
Reining 1990; Nations et al. 1988).
In 1990 Guatemala passed a law (Decree 5-90) for a Maya Biosphere Reserve,
designating 7,500 km 2 of it for extractive industry based on nontimber forest products.
Such activity for 30-100 years has harvested three products: (1) xate palm leaves
(Chamaedorea elegans, C. oblongata) are exported through the year for floral
arrangements, producing US$ 4-6 million annually ; (2) Extraction of chicle, the latex
of Manilkara zapota. The largest concentration of high-grade chicle is found in the Maya
BR and sold primarily to the Japanese. Small quantities of latex from Ficus lundellii,
Bwnelia mayana and Stemmadenia donnell-smithii may be used as enhancing
supplements. In 1990-1991 the high quality latex sold for US$ 3.75 per kg (Reining and
Heinzman 1992); (3) Another important annual product harvested on a rather sustainable
basis is allspice (pimienta gorda, Pimenta dioica).
15. Sierra de las Minas Region and Biosphere Reserve
The Sierra de las Minas is in eastern Guatemala with an area of around 4,374 km 2 ; the
reserve covers 2,363 km 2 . A management plan for the Biosphere Reserve was approved
in 1992 and active management is being implemented, but facing heavy pressure from
timber interests. The region has cloud-forest associations, rain forests, tropical and
premontane dry forests, and thorn scrub. The flora is extremely diverse (over 2,000
species recorded) with high species endemism.
Major timber reserves, especially conifers, and some remnants of lowland hardwood
forests in the north and southeast. There are 13 conifer species in the region, which is
a major center for Pinus. The species most frequently exploited include Pinus oocarpa,
P. patula ssp. tecunumanii and P. caribea, used especially for utility poles, railway
sleepers and furniture. Cedrela odorata, Dalbergia (rosewood) and Vochysia spp. (San
Juan) have been harvested in the past, but recent information on available resources is
Tree-fern species (Dicksonia, Cyathea, Alsophila) are harvested to produce either pots
or the fiber used for growing ornamental plants. Bamboo is used in basket-making.
Medicinal plants abound. These include Ocimum spp., Crescentia alata, several
Rubiaceae (e.g. Borreria ocymoides, Randia armata, Hamelia patens), Dorstenia
contrajerva, Neurolaena spp., many Solanaceae. Several species of Cucurbitaceae and
Solanaceae, including local varieties of tomato, represent potential germplasm reserves
of food plants.
16. Northeastern Honduras and Rio Platano Biosphere Reserve
Located in the Mosquitia region of northeastern Honduras, covering an area of about
5,250 km 2 . Vegetation includes mangrove and freshwater swamps and marshes; sedge
prairie; pine savanna; gallery forest; tropical moist, subtropical moist and subtropical wet
forests; elfin forest. The biosphere reserve is a World Heritage site, Amerindian reserve,
The reserve harbors populations of some important timber trees, such as Calophyllwn
brasiliense var. rekoi, Carapa guianensis, Cedrela odorata, Swietenia macrophylla,
Tabebuia rosea, Virola koschnyi. The abundance of seemingly wild Theobroma (cacao)
near Las Crucitas del Rio Aner suggests it was cultivated there in ancient times. Local
people use native species for many purposes.
17. Braulio Carrillo-La Selva Region
On the Caribbean slope in Heredia, covering an area of about 480 km 2 . The vegetation
ranges from tropical wet forest through tropical premontane, lower montane and montane
Conservation areas consist of a portion of Central Volcanic Cordillera Biosphere Reserve:
Braulio Carrillo National Park and La Selva Biological Station.
There are 4,000-6,000 vascular plant species in Braulio Carrillo National Park; 1,900-
2,200 at La Selva Biological Station.
La Selva sector has species of known economic, including genetic, importance such as
the rare Monstera deliciosa, as well as Vanilla pauciflora and two species of Theobroma.
Some of the region's c. 56 reported palm species may be used for vegetable palm hearts,
or are ornamental — e.g. Geonoma epetiolata, Chamaedorea pumila, C. amabilis. In the
cool transition belt some valuable timber species are much more common than at the
station — Aspidosperma cruentum, Calophyllum brasiliense var. rekoi, Dalbergia
tucurensis, Hyeronima oblonga, Lecythis ampla, Minquartia guianensis. Alnus acuminata
is an important upland timber species not found farther north in Costa Rica.
18. La Amistad Biosphere Reserve
In southeastern Costa Rica and northwestern Panama in the Talamanca range, including
Pacific and Caribbean slopes and the highest mountain in each country. The area consists
of 6, 126 km 2 in Costa Rica in the biosphere reserve, over 4,000 km 2 in Panama planned
for inclusion. The area is also a World Heritage site. In Costa Rica the land is protected
in three national parks, one protected zone, two biological reserves, one forest reserve,
seven Amerindian reserves, one botanical garden. In Panama the existing units planned
for the biosphere-reserve core are three national parks, one forest reserve, one protection
forest, one Amerindian reserve. Other areas are being evaluated for addition.
Vegetation comprises ten life zones in an altitudinal gradient from tropical humid forest
to subalpine rain paramo, with over 90% of the Central American paramos. The flora
shows very high diversity with about 10,000 vascular plant species and about 30%
Many commercially valuable timber species, including, in the lowlands Carapa
guianensis, Hyeronima alchorneoides, Aspidosperma megalocarpon, Terminalia
amazonia, Virola spp., Vochysia spp.; at middle elevations Alnus acuminata and Cedrela
tonduzii; and in the high mountains the oak species, which also have excellent qualities
for charcoal, plus Magnolia, Podocarpus and several Lauraceae species. In the
Panamanian highlands Magnolia sororwn is considered the most valuable tree species,
producing an excellent timber.
Plants with medicinal value are used by indigenous and non-indigenous people. Medicine
men ('awapas') use a large variety of plants such as Dorstenia contrajerva, Petiveria
alliacea, Psidium guajava, Quassia amara, Drimys granadensis, Senecio spp., Smilax
spp., Dioscorea spp. Other plants for example in Palmae, Araceae, Moraceae and
Bignoniaceae are used in handicrafts to construct baskets, hammocks, crates, bags; in
wood carving to manufacture drums, bows and arrows, water containers; and in house
construction. Many food plants are also found in the RBA, among them Euterpe sp. for
its palm heart.
19. Osa Peninsula and Corcovado National Park
In southern Costa Rica near southwestern Panama, the peninsula has an area of around
2,330 km 2 and the park 424 km 2 . Vegetation is mostly tropical wet forest, also tropical
premontane wet and rain forests; associations include marsh, mangrove and swamp
forests, alluvial plains forest, cloud forest. There are 4,000-5,000 vascular plant species
on peninsula, over 500 tree species in park. In addition to the National park, there are
adjacent forest and Amerindian reserves; and integrated land-use planning for the
peninsula's general development.
As a result of intensive local research, the park is increasingly prominent for more
complex and long-term biological and ecological research. The park region has been
chosen as one of the first areas for an intensive inventory by InBio.
Osa pulchra has notable ornamental potential. The genetic stocks of many tree species
in the park are increasingly valuable for critical reforestation or afforestation efforts.
Replanting has already begun on the peninsula. INBio has placed early emphasis on
investigating plants with pharmacological properties.
20. Cerro Azul-Cerro Jefe Region
An area of central Panama northeast of Panama City, covering 34-53 km 2 . Vegetation
consists of various types of tropical rain forest. There are 934 recorded species of ferns
and flowering plants, with high endemism, disjunct taxa. Part of the area falls within
Chagres National Park.
There are timber trees such as Calophyllum longifolium (Maria), Manilkara sp. (nfspero),
Podocarpus cf. oleifolius (pino de montana). Occasionally, leaves and stalks of Socratea
exorrhiza and Colpothrinax cookii (palma escoba) are used to make huts. Uses of endemic
plants are not known. There are species e.g. in Rauvolfia, Cephaelis and Hamelia
investigated for their chemical and pharmacological properties.
21. Darien Region and Darien National Park
A region of 16,671 km 2 in eastern Panama, with the Dari6n National Park covering 5,790
km 2 . Vegetation consists of tropical lowland dry, moist and wet forests; perhaps 500-
year-old secondary rainforest. Tropical premontane moist (warm transition), wet and
pluvial forests and lower montane pluvial forest. Marshes and swamps, tall nonflooding
forests, cloud and elfin forests. In Darien province, 2,440 plant species have been
Darien National Park is a World Heritage site and biosphere reserve, with buffer zone
and Punta Patiiio Nature Reserve to east and Colombia's Los Ratios NP to west. Other
protected areas are: Canglon and Chepigana forest reserves; Comarca Emberf No. 1
(Cemaco District), Comarca Ember£ No. 2 (Sambu District), Kuna de Wali, Mortf y
Nurra Amerindian reserve.
The Darien forests contain important reserves of timber, such as Prioria copaifera
(cativo). This region has contributed 75% of the logs to the national market, with cativo
comprising half of the total. Other timber species include Anacardium excelsum,
Bombacopsis quinata, Vatairea sp., Hyeronima oblonga, Capara guianensis, Cedrela
odorata, Cordia alliodora, Dialium guianense, Myroxylon balsamum, Swietenia
macrophylla, Tabebuia guayacan, T. rosea, Terminalia amazonia.
The indigenous peoples use many species, for a variety of purposes. Cooking oil is
extracted from the palm Jessenia bataua (trupa) and the palm Phytelephas seemannii is
used to make vegetable-ivory carvings.
Baker, M.A., & R.S. Felger. (in prep.)- Medicinal plants of Arizona.
Bye, R. 1976. Ethnoecology of the Tarahumara of Chihuahua, Mexico. Ph.D.
dissertation. Department of Biology, Harvard University.
Bye, R. 1985. Medicinal plants of the Tarahumara Indians of Chihuahua, Mexico, pp.
77-104. In: R.A. Tyson & D.V. Elerick, eds. Two Mummies from Chihuahua:
A Multidisciplinary Study. San Diego, CA: San Diego Museum Paper, no. 19,
Bye, R. 1986. Medicinal plants of the Sierra Madre: comparative study of Tarahumara
and Mexican market plants. Economic Botany 40(1): 103-124.
Chimal, A., Gonzalez-Medrano, F., Diaz, I., Hernandez, A., Noriega, R., Bravo,
E., Perez, J., and Vazquez, J. (1989). Investigacidn sobre flora y fauna
silvestres de la Reserva de la Bidsfera "El Cielo ", Tamaulipas. Secretaria de
Desarrollo Urbano y Ecologia (SEDUE) and Universidad Autonoma
Metropolitana-Xochimilco, Mexico, D.F. 106 pp. Unpublished technical report.
CONAP (1990). Reserva de la Bidsfera Maya. Consejo National de Areas Protegidas
(CONAP), Guatemala City. 8 pp.
Doebley, J., & G.P. Nabhan. 1989. Further evidence regarding gene flow between
maize and teosinte. Maize Genetics Cooperative Newsletter.
Felger, R.S. 1979. Ancient Crops for the 21st Century, pp. 5-20, In: G. Ritchie, ed.
New Agricultural Crops. AAAS Selected Symposium 38. Westview Press.
Felger, R.S., & M.B. Moser. 1985. People of the Desert and Sea: ethnobotany of the
Sen Indians. University of Arizona Press. Tucson, (reprinted 1991).
Felger, R.S., & G.P. Nabhan. 1978. Agroecosystem diversity: A model from the
Sonoran Desert, pp. 128-149. In: N. L. Gonzalez, ed. Social and Technological
Management in Dry Lands. AAAS Selected Symposium 10. Westview Press.
Gentry, H.S. 1942. Rio Mayo plants. Carnegie Institution of Washington 527.
Gentry, H.S. 1963. The Warihio Indians of Sonora-Chihuahua: an ethnographic
survey. Bureau of American Ethnographic Bulletin 186:61-144.
Gonzalez, M. (1984). Las plantas medicinales de Durango. Centra Interdisciplinary
de Investigacidn para el Desarrollo Integral Regional, Instituto Politecnico
National (CIIDIR-IPN), Durango, Mexico. Cuad. Inv. Tecnol. (Durango) 1(2):
Gonzalez, M. (1991). Ethnobotany of the Southern Tepehuan of Durango, Mexico: I.
Edible mushrooms. J. Ethnobiol. 11: 165-173.
Gonzalez, M. and Galvdn, R. (1992). El maguey (Agave spp.) y los Tepehuanes de
Durango. Cact. Sue. Mex. 37: 3-11.
Heinzman, R.M. and Reining, CCS. (1990). Sustained rural development: extractive
forest reserves in the northern Petin of Guatemala. Trop. Resources Inst.
Working Paper No. 37, Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, New
Nations, J.D., Houseal, B., Ponciano, I., Billy, S., Godoy, J.C, Castro, F., Miller,
G., Rose, D., Rosa, M.R., and Azurdia, C. (1988). Biodiversity in Guatemala:
biological diversity and tropical forest assessment. Center for International
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Reining, CCS. and Heinzman, R.M. (1992). Nontimber forest products in the Peten,
Guatemala: why extractive reserves are critical for both conservation and
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marketing of rainforest products. Island Press, Washington, D.C. Pp. 110-117.
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rain forest? An ecological and socioeconomic comparison of nontimber forest
product extraction systems in Peten, Guatemala, and West Kalimantan, Indonesia.
Conserv. Biol. 7(1): 39-52.
Hernandez, S.L., Gonzalez, C, and Gonzalez-Medrano, F. (1991). Plantas utiles de
Tamaulipas. Anales Inst. Biol. Univ. Nac. Autdn. Mexico, Ser. Bot. 62: 1-38.
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of Chihuahua, Mexico. Ph.D. dissertation. University of Arizona. Tucson.
Leyden, B.W. (1984). Guatemalan forest synthesis after Pleistocene aridity. Proc.
Natl. Acad. Sci. 81: 4,856-4,859.
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Mexico. Systematic and ecogeographic studies on crop genepools 5. IBPGR.
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National/international designations IUCN management Area Year
Name of area category (ha) notified
Chiquibul n 107,607 1991
Bladen Branch I 39,256 1990
Rio Grande IV 2,340 1968
Society Hall I 2,729 1986
Cockscomb Basin IV 102,400 1986
Crooked Tree IV 1,470 1984
Marine Nature Reserve
Hoi Chan II 411 1987
Half Moon Caye II 3,925 1982
Grants' Work A
Mountain Pine Ridge
Caracol IV 20,000
National/international designations IUCN management Area
Name of area ca
Isla del Coco
La Amistad (Talamanca)
Rincon de la Vieja
Isla del Cano
Islas Guayabo y Negritos
Barra del Colorado
Gandoca y Manzanillo
Acuiferos de Guacimo y Pocosf
Cerros de Escazu
Cerros de Turrubares
Cerros de la Carpintera
Cuencas del Rio Tuis
Juan Castro Blanco
Rio Sombrero - Rio Navarro
Name of area
Cordillera Volcanica Central
Talamanca - Bribri
Talamanca - Cabecar
Reserva de la Bidsfera de la Amistad
Cordillera Volcanica Central
World Heritage Sites
Cordillera de TalamancaLa Amistad
Barra de Santiago
National/international designations IUCN management
Name of area
Bahia de Santo Tomas
Mirador/Dos Lagunos/Rio Azul
Volcan de Pacaya
Mario Dary Rivera (Quetzal)
San Miguel - El Zotz
Biotopo Universitario para la
Conservacidn del Quetzal
Area de Uso Multiple R.B.M.
Area de Uso Multiple R.S.M.
Franja Transversal del Norte
Sierra de las Minas (Zona Niicleo)
Laguna del Tigre
World Heritage Site
Parque Nacional Tikal
Summary of Protected Areas of Honduras
Name of area
Islas de la Bahia
Montana de Comayagua
Montana de Cusuco
Montana de Yoro
Montana de Puca
Rios de Cuero y Salado
Jardin Botanico de Lancetilla IV 1,253 1978
Golfo de Fonseca
Sierra de Omoa
Multiple Use Reserves
Lago de Yojoa
Name of Area
Reserva de la Bidsfera Rio Pldtano
World Heritage Site
Reserva de la Bidsfera Rio Ptetano
Name of area
Caiidn del Rio Blanco
Canon del Sumidero
Cascada de Bassaseachic
Cerro de la Estrella
Cofre de Perote
Constitucidn de 1857
Cumbres de Majalca
Cumbres de Monterrey
Grutas de Cacahuamilpa
Insurgente Jose Maria Morelos y Pavon
Insurgente Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla
Lagunas de Chacahua
Lagunas de Montebello
Lagunas de Zempoala
Nevado de Colima
Nevado de Toluca
Pico de Orizaba
Pico de Tancitaro
Sierra de San Pedro Mixtii
Zoquiapan y Anexas
Biosphere Reserves (National)
Sierra de Manantlan
Isla de Guerrero Negro
Sierra de Alvarez
Sierra del Pinacate
Valle de los Cirios
Cerro de la Silla
Natural and Typical Biotope
Special Biosphere Reserves
Cascadas de Agua Azul
Islas del Golfo de California
Sierra de Santa Martha
Volcan de San Martin
Mesa del Pitorreal
Portion Boscosa de San Luis Potosf
San Jos6 de los Molinos
Sierra de Juarez
Sierra de Los Ajos, Buenos Aires y Purica
Sierra de Pedro Martir
Sierras de Hansen y San Pedro Martir, y Mesa Pinal Vffl
Terenos de Puebla y Mexico Vffl
Protection Area for Wild Flora and Fauna
Corredor Bioldgico Chichinautzin IV 37,302 1988
Reserva de Mapimf
Reserva de la Michiha
Sierra de Manantlan
Name of area
Rfa Lagartos, Yucatan R 47,480 1986
World Heritage Site
Sian Ka'an X 528,000 1987
Name of area
Rio Indio Maiz
Macizos de Penas Blancas
Pinares de Dipilto
National Natural Resource Reserve
National Natural Reserve
Archipelago de Solentiname
Castillo de la Inmaculada
Cerro Bana Cruz
Isla Juan Venado
Isla de Ometepe
Laguna de Apoyo
Laguna de Tisma
Volcan Momotombe y Momotombito
Name of area
Altos de Campana
National Marine Park
Cienega del Mangle
Islas Taboga y Uraba
Pendn de la Onda
Alto de Darien
Comarca Kuna Yala (San Bias)
Water Production Reserve
Golfo de Montijo
Parque National Fronterizo Darien
Golfo de Montijo
World Heritage Sites
Parque National Darien
Parque International La Amistad
WORLD CONSERVATION MONITORING CENTRE
The Conservation and Sustainable use of the
Plant Genetic Resources of Central America
With funds from the UK Darwin Initiative and the Swedish International Development Agency (SID A),
WCMC is undertaking a study of the in situ conservation of useful plant genetic resources of Mexico and
Central America, focusing particularly on the wild progenitors and landraces of crop plants. The project
is being developed in partnership with international and regional organisations including the International
Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPGRr); Mesoamerican Plant Genetic Resources Network (REMERFI)
and Smithsonian Institution.
Mexico and the countries of Central America have a significant level of indigenous crop genetic diversity
and this is linked with scientific and applied research interests. There is currently, within the region, a
conjunction of very positive elements in the study and conservation of plant genetic resources. The WCMC
project provides an opportunity to strengthen in situ conservation through interdisciplinary activities. The
intention is to involve a wide range of national organisations, both governmental and non-governmental,
linking the plant genetic resource sector and other agencies of biodiversity conservation.
A regional strategy will be developed to reverse the trend of accelerating genetic erosion of plants of current
or potential economic value. The need to conserve genetic resources for their use in food production,
sustainable agriculture, forestry and new pharmaceuticals is widely recognised by governments and provides
a powerful incentive for the conservation of biodiversity. This realisation is reinforced by the provisions
of Agenda 21 and the Biodiversity Convention, both of which stress the need to identify and monitor the
status, threats to, and utilisation of plant genetic resources.
In general, the emphasis in conservation of agricultural plant genetic resources around the world, has been
almost entirely on ex situ conservation linked to plant breeding. Methodologies for in situ conservation have
hardly been elaborated and information on which to plan in situ conservation strategies remains fragmented
and incomplete. Expertise within Meso-America facilitated through this project, and with input from
international agencies, will develop methodologies for in situ conservation, appropriate to the region, which
can be used as a model worldwide.
The long term objectives of the project are:
i. to assess the status, distribution and threats to the most economically important plants and their wild
relatives in Central America
ii. to determine current and potential uses and economic benefits of the plant genetic resources of the
iii. to promote the conservation of genetic variation amongst the wild progenitors and landraces of
agricultural crop plants in the region
iv. to reinforce the economic values of plant genetic resources as an incentive for countries in the region
to conserve their biodiversity
v. to build the capabilities of the national institutions within the region to identify, evaluate and utilise
their plant genetic resources as a key component of the biological wealth of the countries
vi. to develop, field-test and refine a methodology for in-country gathering of data and assessing
national priorities, which will be presented to the FAO 1996 Conference on Plant Genetic Resources.
vii. to develop a methodology and operational practice for quantifying the status, use and economic
values of plant genetic resources that can be applied in other regions of the world
It is proposed to hold an orientation meeting within the region in September 1994 to plan details of project
implementation. This meeting will bring together national experts in plant genetic resources and ecosystem
conservation. In preparation for the meeting, WCMC will prepare a series of reports as a basis, for
discussion and development of methodologies. The proposed contents of the reports result from discussions
at a preliminary meeting between Comisi6n National de Recursos Fitogen6ticos de Costa Rica
(CONAREFI); IPGRI Latin American Regional Office; Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, UK; Royal Botanic
Garden, Edinburgh, UK; CAB International and the Smithsonian Institution, USA. Wide consultation will
be undertaken in preparation of the discussion documents for the meeting.
As a basis for discussion WCMC will prepare:
* the extent and coverage of information on plant genetic resources in situ
* a directory of experts on the taxa identified as of priority by REMERFI
* an assessment of the extent to which these species are held in ex situ collections
* an analysis of the protected area coverage, the extent to which botanical inventories exist for
protected areas, and the level of available information on the diversity of genetic resources conserved
* GIS data sets for selected taxa
* review of database applications and draft transfer formats for data exchange on in situ conservation
of plant genetic resources.
For more information on the project please contact:
World Conservation Monitoring Centre
219 Huntingdon Road
Cambridge CB3 ODL
Tel: 0223 277314 Fax: 0223 277136 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
WORLD CONSERVATION MONITORING CENTRE
La Conservation y el Uso Sustentable de los Recursos
Fitogeneticos de Centro America
Resumen del proyecto
Con los fondos del " UK Darwin Initiative" y de la Agencia International de Desarrollo de Suecia (SID A),
el Centro Mundial de Monitoreo de la Conservation (WCMC) esta llevando a cabo un estudio sobre la
conservacidn in situ de recursos fitogeneticos utiles de Mexico y Centro America, con un enfasis especial
en las plantas de origen silvestre y en "landraces". El proyecto se esta desarrollando en conjunto con
organizaciones internacionales y regionales entre las que se incluye al Instituto International de Recursos
Fitogeneticos (IPGRI), la Red Mesoamericana de Recursos Fitogeneticos (REMERFI), y el Instituto
Mexico y los paises de Centro America tienen un nivel significativo de diversidad genetica en cultivos
autdctonos, lo cual es de gran relevancia para intereses cientificos y para la investigation aplicada. En la
actualidad existen en la region una serie de elementos muy positivos para el estudio y la conservation de
recursos fitogeneticos. El proyecto del WCMC provee una oportunidad para fortalecer la conservacidn in
situ a traves de actividades interdisciplinarias. La intention es la de involucrar una amplia gama de
organizaciones tanto gubernamentales como no gubernamentales, interrelacionando asi al sector de recursos
fitogeneticos con otras agendas de conservacidn de la biodiversidad.
Se desarrollar£ una estrategia regional para cambiar el ritmo acelerado con el cual se estan destruyendo
recursos geneticos en plantas que tienen un valor economico actual o potential. La necesidad de conservar
recursos geneticos para su uso en la produccidn de alimentos, en la agriculture sustentable, en actividades
forestales y en el desarrollo de nuevos productos farmaceuticos es ampliamente reconocida por los gobiernos
y constituye una herramienta de gran peso para la conservacidn de la biodiversidad. Esta necesidad es
reforzada en las disposiciones de Agenda 21 y de la Convention de Biodiversidad, las cuales enfatizan la
necesidad de identificar y monitorizar el status, la amenazas, y la utilization de los recursos fitogeneticos.
En terminos generates, el enfasis en la conservacidn de recursos fitogeneticos agricolas a nivel mundial ha
estado enfocado casi exclusivamente hacia la conservacidn ex situ relacionada a la produccidn y
reproduction de plantas. Muy pocas metodologias para conservation in situ han sido elaboradas y la
information con la cual planificar estrategias de conservacidn in situ continua fragmentada e incompleta.
El conocimiento sobre Mesoamerica generado en este proyecto, con la colaboracidn de agencias
internacionales, contribuira al desarrollo de una metodologia para conservacidn in situ adecuada a la regidn,
la cual podr£ ser utilizada como un modelo a nivel mundial.
Los objetivos a largo plazo de este proyecto son:
i asesorar sobre el status, la distribucidn y las amenazas hacia las plantas mas importantes en terminos
econdmicos (y sus especies silvestres relacionadas) de Centro America,
ii determinar los usos actuales y potenciales y los beneficios econdmicos de los recursos fitogeneticos
de la regidn
iii promover la conservation de variedades geneticas entre los progenitores silvestres y los "landraces"
de plantas de cultivo agricola en la regidn
iv reforzar el valor econdmico de los recursos fitogeneticos como un incentivo para que los paises de
la region conserven su biodiversidad
v contribuir al desarrollo de la capacidad de las instituciones nacionales en la regidn para que
identifiquen, evaluen y utilicen sus recursos fitogeneticos como un componente clave de la riqueza
biologica de sus paises.
vi desarrollar pruebas de campo y refinar una metodologia para la recoleccidn de datos a nivel nacional
y para el asesoramiento de prioridades nacionales, lo cual sera presentado a la Conferencia de 1996
de la FAO sobre Recursos Fitogeneticos.
vii desarrollar una metodologia y experiencia practica para cuantificar el status, el uso y los valores
econdmicos de los recursos fitogeneticos, la cual pueda ser aplicada en otras regiones del mundo.
Se propone que se lleve a cabo una reunion de orientacidn en la regidn en septiembre de 1994 para
planificar los detalles sobre la implementacidn del proyecto. Esta reunion agrupara a expertos nacionales
en recursos fitogeneticos y en la conservacion de ecosistemas. Para la reunion WCMC preparara una serie
de reportes como base para la discusidn y para el desarrollo de las metodologias. El contenido propuesto
para los reportes es el resultado de discusiones de una reunion preliminar entre la Comisidn Nacional de
Recursos Fitogeneticos de Costa Rica (CONAREFI); la Oficina Latinoamericana Regional de IPGRI; el
Jardin Botanico Real de Kew, Reino Unido; el Jardin Botanico Real de Edimburgo, Reino Unido; CAB
Internacional y el Instituto Smithsonian, USA. Se llevarl a cabo una amplia consulta durante la preparacidn
de los documentos de discusidn para la reunion.
Como bases para la discusidn WCMC preparara:
* la extension y cobertura de la informacidn sobre recursos fitogeneticos in situ.
* un directorio de expertos en taxa, senalada como un prioridad por REMERFI
* un asesoramiento sobre la medida en la cual estas especies existen en colecciones ex situ
* un andlisis de la cobertura de areas protegidas, la medida en la cual existen inventarios botanicos
para las areas protegidas, y el nivel de informacidn disponible de los recursos fitogeneticos
conservados in situ
* Datos de Sistemas de Informacidn Geografica para grupos de taxa seleccionados
* una revisidn de aplicaciones de bases de datos y formatos preliminares de transferencia para
intercambio de datos sobre conservacion in situ de recursos fitogeneticos
Para mayor informacidn sobre el proyecto por favor contactar a:
World Conservation Monitoring Centre
219 Huntingdon Road
Cambridge CB3 ODL
Tel: + 0223 277314 Fax: 0223 277136 Correo electronico: email@example.com
J At 1
World Conservation Monitoring Centre
219 Huntingdon Road
Cambridge CB3 ODL
Telephone +44 223 2773 14
Fax +44 223 277136
, P * The World Conservation Monitoring Centre is a joint-venture between the three
It* *J partQers who developed the WorW Conservation^trategy and its successor Caring for
*WF l/ie Eart/j: IUCN-The World Conservation Union, UNEP- United Nations Environment
AVWF Programme, and WWF-World Wide Fund for Nature.