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Biotope One Plant Library Initiative

Combining Conservation With Access and Availability

Biotope One Plant Library Initiative is similar to a seed bank in the way it functions. Biodiversity conservation and preservation is important and a community-based initiative helps preserve endemic plants and other species through a global network. Through members and supporters, a collection of flora and fauna and other resources are available to hobbyists and enthusiasts. The aim of BOPLI is to preserve plants, seeds, and species suitable for hobbyists.

This conservation-based Initiative aims to focus on sustainable biodiversity to preserve and protect flora and fauna in its natural habitat. Reducing the impact of the collection of flora and fauna in areas with habitat destruction is a valuable tool in preserving these species among hobbyists and researchers. When possible, projects are created and supported to protect and rebuild habitat to prevent further damage.

We aim to bring the importance of endemic plants, threatened species, and habitat loss to the public in a manner that enlightens environmental issues, hobby level issues, and responsible activism to conserve and preserve through cultivation methods.  Campaigns such as reducing the use of palm oil are among them.

BOPLI is a project to collect, propagate (horticultural, plant tissue culture, and breeding programs), document, and disseminate endemic and other plants suitable for hobbyists and enthusiasts. It is a living flora and fauna bank.  It operates much the same way a seed bank does.

Importance is placed on research and to evaluate habitat impact to better understand and document factors that contribute to loss and also the sustainability of habitat. Important information and data are collected and organized for current and future gains in knowledge about hard to keep species in order to better understand their needs and better ensure their survival.  Expeditions are coordinated and funded through Biotope One to collect data and specimens when possible and funds are available.

Biotope One was initially started to conserve endemic plants but quickly grew to perform additional functions such as exploring fertilization techniques, plant tissue culture, best propagation practices, animal husbandry, and other similar facets and issues enthusiasts encounter in the hobby of plant keeping.  It adds knowledge and experience in order to grow these plants in the best manner possible.

We are made up of a loose network of hobby growers, breeders, and hobbyists working together in a common interest in keeping plant and fauna species diversity alive and available. These plants and animal species supporters form a network and community of practice to further flora and fauna in the hobbies. Teaching and training methods of related skills are also an important facet of BOPL.  Animal husbandry and breeding programs, as well as habitat rehabilitation, is important to us.

Many endemic species are lost to palm oil plantations, development, and timber harvesting. Many of our target species are often only found in very small endemic habitats and once disturbed are lost to nature forever. Biotope One and the Plant Library Initiative aim to collect these plants and cultivate them even if they can no longer be made to thrive in their natural habitat. Biotope One supports conservation projects and other small local and regional projects such as the construction of nurseries and propagation methods in areas like Borneo, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Africa, and South America.

Organization

BOPLI needs a management system to oversee the practices to ensure consistency and accuracy. Coordination of leadership is necessary to align technical issues, finances, administration, communication, and outreach. Most roles and responsibilities are not strictly defined and are often unnecessary to do so. Constitutional Draft is a guidance and support structure set up by the Board of Directors and other supporting members.

The Committee is responsible for deciding practices and methods to further the Initiative.

Collection methods;
Phytosanitary standards;
Documentation methods such as data and dissemination formats;
Cultivation practices and its evaluation;
Husbandry and monitoring of flora and fauna species health;
Rejuvenation of stocks, species, and supplies and their importance in the Initiative;
Distribution and safe shipping methods.

Key Issues and Challenges

A Plant Library can be a very effective mechanism to mobilize existing social interest and capital (trust, networks, practices, etc). Regardless, being recognized and supported as a legitimate form of organization is important. Better establishment, organization, and development through community backing and participation that integrates all aspects of hobbyists will be more effective in the short and long term even if the project is not widely supported.

Important steps to develop and mobilize the BOPL cooperative through social capital are relatively readily available.

Sensitize the community;
Strengthen local institutions;
Develop rules and regulations;
Construct seed-storage facilities;
Receive plant/species deposits or collect local species;
Document community biodiversity using a register/inventory/passport data;
Mobilize a community biodiversity management fund for community development and conservation;
Multiply flora and fauna;
Monitor plant flora and fauna transactions and impacts;

Socially backed conservation projects have historically been very beneficial globally. Many different types of projects have been created and operated successfully from wide-reaching goals to very niche oriented concentrations on small aspects. This can be a very productive organization to improve access and benefit sharing of species that are not readily available.

Technical Issues

Choosing species is a very important detail when it comes to the limitations early on. More easily kept species will have to be chosen to build a proficient and useful Plant Library in order to grow the community and resources needed. This can be established through social capital and talking with members and potential members to establish a list of species to target initially. Most likely species that are more widely sought after will have to be added first. Once a list of more common species are obtained and established more and harder to find plants can be sought after and added to the Initiative.

One way to limit species would be to decide whether only species level plants would be brought into the Initiative or would sports and cultivars also be of interest to members. Resources are limited but without interest from members and social capital, the success of this Initiative is questionable at best. Broadening the function of the Initiative leads to broadening the base of members and the reach it can have on habitat and conservation practices that can be carried out.

Documenting, Sharing, and Communication of Information

Flora and fauna are a large of the community and the Initiative but it isn’t the only material the Initiative addresses. Information is just as important as the plants and animals themselves, without the proper information to accompany many species they simply cannot be kept properly, or at all, short or long term.

This documentation includes information such as common and scientific names, the location of collection, habitat, nutritional necessities, conditions, growth, and other similar pertinent data. The extent of cultivation, its local uses and values, and local knowledge are all important documentation to the future of many species. What information is useful should be collected, formatted, and shared.

Sharing information and experience among members and non-members alike, as well as any other interests in the community is an important role of the Initiative. A dynamic forum and community is a valuable way to document and format data into shareable useable information.

Growing and Regenerating Flora and Fauna

Typically a Plant Library would collect and grow as many plants as it could. Since space is limited, as well as money and other resources, other methods have to be entertained in order for the project to work.

Trading is a very important tool in building the list of species that the Initiative can obtain and offer. Other tools that work for building the Initiative is a plant loan, where plants are given to a member and that member repays the Initiative and or other members with a set number of plants.

For instance, a member ‘borrows’ 12 Cryptocoryne sivadasanii plants. In order to obtain these plants from the Initiative the member agrees to propagate the plants and in a timely manner returns the plants with an additional number of plants. This would be proportional to growth habits and availability determined by the individual species.  Plants would also be available for outright purchase.

As an example, the member that ‘borrowed’ the 12 Cryptocoryne sivadasanii would need to return the 12 plants along with 6 additional plants. The member doesn’t pay for the plants initially, the member simply gets plants and multiplies them, and returns the plants in greater number than they originally obtained.  These additional six plants would be able to be sent to another member eventually.

Since information is readily available about the species the Initiative has in its project members would be able to more easily and more productively propagate species. Information being available to non-members as well as members with those species the Initiative has would be able to trade or exchange plants for those that they do not have.

Suppose a member already had 18 Cryptocoryne sivadasanii plants. That member or non-member would be able to trade the plants in and receive a number of plants that they did not have. This would also be proportionate to the growth and availability of plants the member or non-member would be interested in. They could exchange those 18 Cryptocoryne sivadasanii plants for a number of Eriocaulon plants, or a combination of other plants.

Members and non-members alike would be able to also outright purchase plants for the Initiative. Member and non-member pricing would be set at differing levels. Members would be considered first in limited quantities and exchanges. This is also a fundamental part of funding for the Plant Library Initiative to provide supplies, electricity and materials, and other necessities to operate.

Support of the Biotope One Plant Library Initiative

BOPLI has a wide range of support and members in the conservation effort and collaboration of the project. Supporting members are global and bring to the Initiative a staggering amount of knowledge and talent. The members and supporters of the Initiative strengthen the multi-functioning purpose of the Initiative.

Some participate in social networking, others collect and disseminate information, yet others propagate flora and fauna. All supporters and members of the Initiative are important and very much needed in order for the project to thrive and prosper.

Some span a global network, while others form smaller local networks to complete tasks and much-needed operations. Some interact in a more or less formal group and actions than others may. We interact regularly with researchers, breeders, botanists, expedition leaders, and wild collection trips.

Sometimes community leaders take a strong role in establishing and maintaining networks. Other times there is much greater participation by members. Some have little to do with flora and fauna while others are strictly hands on flora and fauna. Some members function better with networks while others prefer to participate singularly. All supporters are important to us from all aspects of the Initiative.

Policy and Legal Environment

Globally, community projects operate in countries with diverse political regimes and policy in the terms of legal contexts. Some countries have very strict policy when it comes to what can and cannot be collected and imported. Other countries have very poor conservation laws. Many countries in the tropics have paid little attention to small distributions of seemingly unimportant plants and prefer to concentrate on the production of commercial industrial crops and timber harvesting.

We try to target flora and fauna which have policies that allow us to collect and export plants that have no commercial importance under logging, development and new farming operations. We in no way support illegal poaching practices and obtain plant material in a legal channel before it is destroyed due to ‘progress’.

Encourage the conservation and recovery of local habitat and flora and fauna species;
Support local cultivation projects for native and endemic species cultivation;
Value and reward local collective efforts to reduce habitat impact from farming, logging, and development;
Value and protect genetic resources we obtain from these areas under threat of destruction;
Make links between the channels that can obtain these flora and fauna species;
Disseminate and promote the results we realize through the Initiative.

Local and government policies dictate what we can and can’t do but we work alongside current policies to try and obtain material for future generations to enjoy. In areas where policy is not friendly to the Initiative, we work to try to obtain permission through channels and agencies that are legal. Occasionally we can obtain plant material from botanists and scientists in these areas that we otherwise wouldn’t be able to obtain and introduce into the hobby. This type of opportunity will gain traction and increase as we grow more. Support will allow and nurture growth in order to obtain material from bigger agencies, which will produce more growth.

Sustainability

Organizational viability is the biggest hurdle the Initiative has, and in order to clear this obstacle, social capital needs to grow quickly to continue this Initiative long term. Other major obstacles are a lack of legal recognition in some countries and funding. Long-term survival depends greatest on long-term interest and a strong foundation of members to support it.

Legal recognition and protection, options for financial viability, members with adequate technical and organizational qualities, and effective operational mechanisms are needed in order to continue long term. Sustainability within the community through social capital is the lifeline of this Initiative and is the backbone of economic empowerment, policy and legal environment, and operation ability.

Without members and their interest, the Initiative has no ability to maintain itself.

Human and Social Capacity

The Plant Library Initiative functions off of the participation, collective, and resources of its members and supporters. Their capacity for action of supporters and members builds human and social capital needed to continue. Providing access to flora and fauna as well as information surrounding these species can only be realized from committed members and supporters.

An important function of this Initiative is to pass knowledge and information from senior members and supporters along to the second generation and new hobbyists, members, and supporters. Networking and collaboration is the best avenue for this.

Members and supporters have been volunteering their time and knowledge to the Initiative. They attend meetings and discussions, exchange plants, collect information and format it into usable data, write articles, and provide other useful functions like social media exposure. These members are not paid and do so through their own generosity and willingness to share and learn. Availability of resources within the Plant Library Initiative is the only physical benefit that members and supporters receive at this time as the Initiative has no budget for paid support.