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Concerns over Kew: royal plant research at risk

kew.jpgLondon’s iconic botanic garden at Kew is in danger of losing its standing as a world class scientific institute, a government-commissioned review has warned.

A report released this week by the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs says that, while the Royal Botanic Gardens has many impressive achievements to its credit, there is a real danger of its research suffering in the near future. The review also warns that some of its most famous attractions may have to be closed to the public.

“A persistent message received by the review team was that Kew’s research base is in danger of falling below its critical mass,” says the independent review. “The review team is concerned that Kew is trying to do too much with too little.”

Among the concerns found by the reviews are a diminishing of the quality of Kew’s research base in recent years, mainly due to posts that have been left vacant because of a lack of money. Research effort has also been diverted into “income-generating activities” it notes. In addition, the reviewers were concerned by the apparent lack of an integrated science strategy at Kew.

In a statement, the Royal Botanic Gardens stressed that the review concluded Kew met all its statutory obligations, including those regarding research.

“We welcome the report’s recommendations, which are designed to enable us to continue to deliver our mission and our statutory duties now and in years to come,” says the gardens’ director Stephen Hopper. “We will now consider these recommendations in detail.”

Located south of the River Thames, Kew is a listed World Heritage Site, with amazing greenhouses such as the Palm House and the Temperate House. Even these are under threat though.

“Several of the heritage buildings are in a bad state of repair, and in the case of the Temperate House, its condition raises health and safety concerns for visitors and staff alike,” says the review. “Urgent restoration is essential if closure is to be avoided.”

Image: Palm House at Kew by Jack at Wikipedia via Flickr under Creative Commons.


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