Botanists of the Twenty-first Century: Roles, Challenges and Opportunities

22-25 September 2014
Room II, UNESCO Headquarters, Paris, France

Without plants, Earth would be a planet without life

Since its emergence 3.8 billion years ago with the first aquatic chlorophyllous organisms, photosynthesis has become a vital process making possible the spread of life across the planet. For thousands of years, plants have colonized aquatic and terrestrial environments, continuously adapting to the natural dynamics of their environment. They created the conditions that led to the emergence and maintenance of animal life, and form the very basis of terrestrial ecosystems.

Plants provide various ecosystemic services essential to humanity. Plant science, long supported by medicine, because of the medicinal, even magical, properties of plants, began to grow in the fifteenth century. Botany as a separate science was reinforced by the expeditions of the sixteenth century with its flourishing trade. In the twentieth century, botany diversified into increasingly specialized disciplines ranging from physiology to plant ecology, genetics and phytosociology. A multifaceted science, the practice of botany has been transformed in recent decades by technological advances and the expansion of disciplines.

The twentieth century has witnessed the disappearance of natural ecosystems, loss of biodiversity at the global level and loss of traditional knowledge, all of which threaten the very foundations of this science. At the beginning of the twenty-first century botany is undergoing profound changes. Botanists are facing a changing world. They must apply their knowledge and expertise to meet the actual needs of societies; address new economic, social and environmental challenges; and contribute to the preservation of biodiversity.


Aims of the Conference

The aim of the conference is to develop forward-looking perspectives for the botanical profession in the twenty-first century. The conference will provide a platform for exchange and dialogue to:

* Take stock of global, regional and national issues and challenges that botany can contribute to mitigating;

* Review the state of the art for the study and practice of botany; and

* Identify actionable elements for re-orienting the discipline to make the essential innovative scientific and technological contributions needed for current and future generations.

The conference will focus on tropical and temperate botanical issues, identifying skills to be maintained or developed and training needs. It will also define ways to interact with other disciplines and improve communication with the general public and policy-makers.

The conference will bring together participants from many regions of the world with a particular interest in the plant kingdom. Participants will include representatives from various sectors, including education, science, academia, policy, NGOs, communities and business, as well as development partners. Simultaneous translation in English and French will be provided.