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Missouri Botanical Garden to add scientists studying plants endangered by climate change

The Missouri Botanical Garden’s Climatron on Thursday, Aug. 25, 2022.
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
The Missouri Botanical Garden is expanding its global conservation strategy, adding teams of scientists to address the effects of climate change on plant life.

The Missouri Botanical Garden is adding teams of scientists to address the effects of climate change on plant life worldwide.

The garden will hire four scientists and four directors who will focus on food security, biodiversity loss, overreliance on natural resources and the effect that climate change has on plants. The strategy is essential to achieving sustainability in the years to come, said Gunter Fischer, MoBot’s senior vice president of science and conservation.

“Exploration is the foundation of all our work,” Gunter said. “We have to understand and document plant diversity, plant uses and habitats in our planet to be able to preserve and enrich life.”

One of the new hires will lead a team on plant systematics to better document and understand plant species. Studying the genetic makeup of plants in the wild will help scientists learn more about preserving similar plants. That research could help strengthen food security around the globe, Fischer said.

“Studying the diversity of crop wild relatives will help to address food security,” he said, “because crop wild relatives could be used to breed for climate resilient crop varieties.”

Several scientists will focus on conservation efforts in Latin America and Africa. Fischer said learning about different tree species and the environment needed to grow them is essential to sustain tropical trees endangered by climate change.

“We lost vast areas of forest over the last two centuries,” Fischer said. “As a consequence and example, 30% of all tree species are threatened by extinction so we have to scale up our efforts in conserving the last remaining forests.”

The garden has more than 90 different scientists focused on conservation. Garden leaders said the preservation of plant life and continued research on plants around the world will be essential in the years and decades to come.

“We live in troubling times for the environment worldwide,” Missouri Botanical Garden President Peter Wyse Jackson said in a statement. “We know that so much is gravely threatened through unsustainable development, habitat loss and climate change. The work we undertake in the fields of exploration, conservation, restoration and education are crucial for the future in our efforts to save the plants that sustain us.”

Chad is a general assignment reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.