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Diversity, evolution and genomes in the garden
How does your garden grow? - the biology of gardening 

Professor Pat Heslop-Harrison, Department of Biology
Date of delivery: 12/09/03 

Welcome to the conference associated with our exciting session on the biology associated with plants in the gardens and gardens. We have three speakers who will describe aspects of their work.

Gardens are good for our quality of life – we enjoy looking at them and being in them, whether in the major public gardens, middle of roundabouts, or our private gardens, and in many cases enjoy eating their produce. Gardening is also the major and most popular leisure pursuit in the UK. We also think of them as ‘green lungs’ for our cities: but without careful thought, gardens can be some of the most environmentally hostile places, devastating to the diversity of plant and animals in our environment:

Gardeners introduce invasive, alien species such as Rhododendron, Fallopia or Buddleja

Gardens misuse resources – water, peat, and as Gordon Port will say, chemicals

Gardens can be sterile mono- or oligo-cultures with a few cultivars only present, with the rest of diversity systematically exterminated – from other plants, to the earthworms and insects of the local wild environment

Can be responsible for inappropriate collection of plants from wild environments

But gardens need not be bad for the diversity of the environment: they can be important areas for conservation and both maintaining and expanding biodiversity. They can include native plants and locally adapted plants, and encourage both the plants and the fauna to flourish.

Chuchyards are also important for local diversity and conservation of local genotypes adapted to particularly local regions.

Second part of my lecture was related to two important anniversaries this year: 50 years from DNA, and 250 years from Carl Linnaeus Species Plantarum.

Now we are able to use DNA methods to gain a fundamental understanding of plant diversity, plant relationships and ways to develop new variety. These DNA methods are quantitative, high volume, fast and efficient, and can be applied in conservation biology, gene discovery, informing policy and plant breeding.

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Last updated: 19 September 2003 9:47
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