An international workshop to assess the extinction risk of Mediterranean plants
In early February, a workshop held by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) took place in Athens, Greece. Expert botanists from all across the East Mediterranean countries participated in the workshop, assessing the extinction risk of monocot plant species from the Mediterranean climate region.
The workshop was part of a large project, aimed at assessing all the monocot species around the Mediterranean sea, parallel to the western Mediterranean and North-African Mediterranean regions. The Tel Aviv University Botanical Garden was represented by its director, Dr Yuval Sapir, together with Dr Ori Fragman-Sapir from the Jerusalem Botanical Garden. The working group focusing on Middle-Eastern plants included botanists from Jordan, Palestine, and Lebanon.
About 200 plant species were assessed in a five-day working session, each plant according to the IUCN criteria, and assigned to a risk category. As an example, Iris atropurpurea, an Israeli coastal endemic, was assessed as "Critically Endangered", the highest category of risk, only one step before extinction. This is mainly due to its restricted area of occurrence and the severe reduction of its populations following the massive urbanization along the coastal plain of Israel.
These risk assessments provide the guidelines for the Botanical Garden’s prioritizing of endangered plants, growing them in the garden in an attempt to preserve the genetic diversity of the plants and their global biodiversity.