I think its Ok with part 1 but not sure about introducing to new sites?!
Doing this can reduce habitat and ecosystem heterogeneity, as well as possibly reducing genetic diversity if different lineages are brought together - such a practice is also confusing to researchers and people who study plants (including us) - imagine a researcher racking his brains to find a scientific explanation for an apparent increase in the range the ice plant...
Any Conservation initiatives require detailed preliminary research and have to be carried out hand in hand with the competent national authorities - in this case MEPA nature protection unit -
Unfortunately, not withstanding our very best intentions, in the field of conservation there is no room at all for such types of personal initiatives.
I perfectly agree with regards to introduce native plants to new sites where they were not there before.
Rob, does the comment also applies regards sites where this plant exist and is decreasing or overgrown by other very common flora or becasue of urban influence (for exampling dumpings) ? This plant is decreasing in Malta, so shall we wait and wave good bye?
We have seen many instances of people planting trees here and there so these are 'technically speaking' doing wrong??
And As far as I know, the biotechnology centre are peopagating rare stuff to restore them back in nature reight? (or worng!)
Maybe its scope to open a new topic about this as here is out of point
i personally see nothing wrong at all in 'helping' the ice plant a bit in it's present habitats - perhaps removing some of the common invasive weeds, or even helping in seed distribution etc, but i still think that it is something that should be done in conjunction/or with the go-ahead from the relevant authorities
Many trees have been planted where they should not - hunters are still planting eucalyptus and acacia even though it is illegal.
However there is nothing wrong in planting other trees for reafforestation projects and for re-introductions - in fact it is very important that that is done - but these are well documented, well researched projects, carried out by NGOs in specific locations, with the required permits and blessing from mepa etc. after a lot of detailed studies, preparatory work etc, and in consultation with professional consrervationists, botanists etc.
Probably you are right - this is stuff for a new topic
However, I still am totally in favour of trying to cultivate them in our gardens - in the sense of taking some seeds and cultivating them from seeds - not cutting them from the wild.
1) This would increase some stocks genetically away from the main population
2) It's a challenge and keeps us interested
3) I don't need to go to Zonqor or to Ramla to photograph M.crystallinum - I just need to go to MWP garden
Of course, i totally agree with pine that this applies only to seeds and pulling up plants is totally unacceptable - and that includes bulbs or rhizomes, especially of rare plants - it would be totally unacceptable and irresponsible if I were to pull out Iris rhizomes or tulip bulbs to grow at home
With seeds there is no problem and no need to say I agree because I am doing it. Who knows, maybe when the plants get destroyed authorities would beg us to give them some seeds of our home-cultivated plants !
Regards taking whole plants from the wild I also do not agree. Remember what happened to O. lutea at xxxxx - removed by some irrisponsible few days before I was going to photo it!
Now I have another more complex question in regards:
If a population of a rare species is in a closed private property and the owner allows me to take few bulbs of these species for propagtion, or botanical research+study what would be the position ??
- if they are protected species the land-owner has absolutely no right to remove them, damage them, distribute them etc, even if for propagation, research etc - this would still require a written permit from the authorities - even though they are on his land - I remember a recent court case where a land owner was very rightly fined a hefty sum of money for removing a few carob trees from his land.
Even, forgetting about the legal aspects of the issue, whether on private land or otherwise, taking plants or bulbs of rare species can still cause further damage to already vulnerable populations.
Did you Got my PM Rob about this?
What I feel strange in the picture then is that Environment authorities allow the pick-up of certain wild flowers like Narcissus and even can be sold in the markets. It gives the wrong message to the public that wild flowers can be picked at will.
What am I on about?
We have plenty of protected species. Protected, important habitats. Then we have politicians who, at a stroke, (IMPORTANT - this is not a "blue" or "red" thing) are capable of writing off hundreds of tumoli of habitat and thousands of specimens of plants for a golf course. So much for that, let's leave aside whether the project will go ahead or whether the authorities will back down maybe due to pressure.
Or we have private landowner, on whose land grow important species, species which, by the law, we can't even take SEEDS!!
Landowner decides, well, this patch of wasteland, I'll grow some potatoes on. Viva it-tractor, and bye bye wild plants!
Or Mr Bird Trapper wants a nice flat area for his nets, and clears an area clean of orchids, etc.
Or, again, we have important orchids on a building plot, and, come time to build, here come the JCB's...
Do you seriously think that we have the resources, the vigilance, to stop this, and do you think that in any way these actions will be reversed, even if noticed and stopped, by the law? In most cases, anyone determined, will not be stopped by any law, that is if the law enforcement authorities even bother to try.
There are so many tactics to achieve a dubious end, and legally stay out of trouble. After all, if a carob tree "happens to burn at night" well, who did it? Can anyone prove that the landowner did it, would the Police bother to try, they have other things to look at than the occasional burnt tree.
My point is, the law can never work 100%, in fact if it works 5%, that'll be a good day.
So, by all means we need to respect the law, but let's be practical. If we are responsible enough to respect the law, we are also responsible enough to understand the spirit of the law, and must be flexible. Don't let anyone tell me that it's bad "just because of the law" if, when we notice that a plant's particular habitat (and thus it's existence in that area) is under threat, we take counter-action by whatever reasonable and realistic means.
It could be by attempting to establish another population in a safer habitat, using the threatened specimens to this end. Naturally the degree of threat would determine the course of action, if the habitat is, for example, going to be obliterated, then even taking, (uprooting) specimens.
Whatever it takes - don't tell me that it makes more sense to just watch while the bulldozers come in and do all the uprooting super-presto while we lament the loss.
Leaving aside immediately threatened habitat - We all do understand that so many plants locally exist in very restricted areas, and thus a disaster in that area would be disastrous for the plant. Having the plant growing in more geographically dispersed locations, gives "insurance". Undoubtedly many plants originally had a more widespread distribution, but due to so many factors (who knows what used to grow in the centre of what are now our towns and villages, Valletta, Sliema, anywhere!) they now exist in patches often measured in meters.
I would have my conscience much clearer knowing that I could have contributed something to making that plant's existence that little bit more guaranteed, than just doing nothing, or relying on others to do the job, who often don't for practical or other purposes. As long as we are taking reasonable action, it's better to do something than nothing.
Even if, strictly, the action may not be 100% legal.
The emphasis is of course "reasonable action" and by this I could refer to spreading seeds to localities where the habitat is suitable. OR taking seeds (again, REASONABLY) to grow in one's garden, as Stephen says, and as everyone knows, I am very much into.
Let's think for a moment - Where is the largest population of our national plant - Dingli Cliffs, or the many roundabouts, central strips, etc all over the islands? In this means, come what may, we can say that this plant's future is guaranteed. If no one did anything, maybe we could say that this plant is endangered. Today, if disaster could strike any part of the wild population, in no time at all the plant could be restored in it's habitat via the "population bank" in all these public spaces.
To put all the above in a nutshell - Let's be realistic, there is no real way that any "authorities" have the resources to do all that ideally should be left to be done by them, it is almost obligatory where possible to do our own bit or just stand by and console ourselves after the loss, and just say that "well we just followed the law - to the letter".
Your concerns about the fate of our plants are very real and I am sure that they are shared by most of us - however the underlying argument is not about what the law allows and does not allow - it goes far beyond that.
Collecting a few seeds from plant populations that are threatened and growing them in one's garden is fine - I have no problem with that, and as far as I know (no time to look it up at the moment) veryfew plants are protected by law to the extent that seeds cannot be taken - as you very well said this could end up being a good insurance or a source for re-population if something happens to the wild population.
The problem is not removing the seeds or even plants in the case of habitats that are about to be destroyed - it is what will be done with them after that could be problematic - It is unacceptable for individuals, however well meaning to start establishing populations of this and that where they 'think' is a suitable habitat - it can produce far more harm than good and can mess up ecosystems in various ways - this sort of work should be done, but it is the territory of professional botanists and conservationists - many detailed studies need to be carried out before plant populations can be introduced or even re-introduced to habitats. These include historical records, soil analysis, study of the species assemblages, topography etc. Any introductions should also be carefully documented for scientific reasons as well as regularly monitored. Various plants have been established in nature reserves in this way (Wied Ghollieqa, Ghadira bird reserve, Marsaxlokk salt marsh) but everything was done after considerable study and everything is well documented.
The countryside is not our personal gardens where well meaning individuals try this or that because they think that this habitat looks ok for this plant.
Habitats are diverse from each other precisely because different plants grow in one location and and not in another, and habitat diversity has to be maintained - Imagine the mess created if plants start appearing in locations where they were never present because plant enthusiasts, working on their own, without anybody knowing what they up to are introducing species haphazardly to habitats. It is simply not on.
There is so much lack of information and awerness, that the majority thinks that the we can mess as much as we like with the wild species. The teachers do very well their job at school to educate students, but these youths grow up in this society of ignorance, and they easily got corrupted by the usual formula, wild=money. They all say they do it as a hobby, but I am quite sure that money is involved.
We shall perhaps discuss this lively when we meet in next activity, hope the veterans and RB can make it to come, unless you have boycotted the activities becasue of this topic!
What am I on about.
Invasive alien species aside, (now there's a SERIOUS concern, for diferent reasons) it is the habitat that decrees which native plants can and can't be supported in that particular locality.
Over millennia, leaving aside man's generally destructive intervention on habitat and the species therein, a native plant(s) grows in a particular place because the habitat favours it (them) against other species, and if such is the case, then that plant WILL be present.
Going back to mankind, one can safely say that if a NATIVE plant which SHOULD be growing in that habitat, is not, this is a result of mankind's influence.
So we have a double reassurance that the result of "uncontrolled private initiatives" as we shall call these, are far more benign than one may initially fear, and pale into insignificance compared to the threats posed by non-native introduced species.
Here they are:
1. If the introduction of a species into an area where it is currently not present, is successful, then one may safely assume that at some point in time, allowing for the zillions of years' chance for this species to have dispersed naturally, this species WAS originally present.
2. If the introduction of the species is to the "wrong" habitat, and herein likely are your concerns, THIS WILL NOT SURVIVE. I can claim the aforegoing in confidence based on quite a few years of attempting to grow both native species and ornamental species, sometimes in the "wrong" location.
Why will plants in the "wrong" habitat not survive? I guess the instinctive thought goes to a simple reasoning, like for example imagining that this "theory" of mine can only stretch to something like introducing a water plant to dry garigue, or similar. The reasoning may not immediately go the other way, wherein it may not be obvious that a plant may also not survive in a location where the conditions are "too good" for it. Yes, precisely - a plant in habitat that is, technically, "too good" for it, will NOT survive.
This is for the very simple expedient that in this "too good" habitat, there will be OTHER SPECIES which have adapted to take full advantage of this "better" habitat which will completely crowd out the newcomer, if not directly killing it (assuming that the introduction was via the transfer of a mature, established specimen) then it's seedlings will not have a chance of surviving.
This conclusion is not difficult to come to, personal observations aside. If this above were not the case, then the plant kingdom would by now probably consist of the grand total of a single species, a tough fekker that does well in the deserts of Arizona and is just as happy in the wetlands of the Nile delta. Thankfully, this is not the case.
The above has also shaped my outlook and undoubtedly that of so many thinking green-fingered types when it comes to planning a planting of a garden, or even choosing a pot plant for a particular location. The wise gardener never thinks in terms of what he'd wish to have growing in a particular location, but firstly in terms of what that particular location will SUPPORT. Then, out of that shortlist, one may make a choice, but not before. Otherwise one will either have a continual battle for survival, or the results will be highly disappointing.
Furthermore, the above "theory" also explains why although we have literally thousands of species of non-native plants in our gardens, and have done so for centuries, only an absolute minimum of them have "gone wild", though on second thoughts maybe one of them in particular may have been one too many even though it's supposedly main reproductive method does not work. But we digress.
so i recommend to change Robcars title to "nature conservation expert"
back to the topic, there are indeed very few occasions where planting rare species for conservetion reasons should even be considered. and even in such cases if the action is not documented properly it will do more harm than good.
save your anger for preventing the destruction of natural sites, dont make it too easy for developers to say "thanks to mr RB the plants will continue their life in another habitat thus improving it and so our golf coure is doing Maltese nature some good".
and please have pity with us poor biologists who will find the rare plant in a new location, maybe publish our discovery and even do some extensive ecological studies on the new population, and all our work would be worthless, just because you planted the sp.
Of course plants do not choose the habitats they live in - plants happen to end up in a habitat by through random processes (primarily seed dispersal) - as you have clearly explained local conditions (both the physical environment and other species present) will determine whether they do or do not establish themselves - so far so good.
However I think that saying that a native plant which should be growing in an area and is not present is a result of human influence is a bit over-simplistic - on what ground can an individual decide what should or should not be growing in a particular habitat
As to the spread of invasives being more harmful than ' uncontrolled private initiatives' - you are definitely right - Yes local species and almost all non-natives are not invasive - the fact that native plants are non-invasive is one reason why plants do not grow naturally in ALL the habitats where could theoratically support them - very often, intervening unsuitable habitat will prevent their spread to other locations with siuitable habitats - this is one of the factors that gives rise to ecosystem diversity as well as species diversity
I am not in principle against re-introductions of species to habitats where they were historically present but are now locally extinct - (I think that having Sempreviva ta' Ghawdex re-introduced to Wied Babu would be nice) or even to new habitats in exceptional cases (this is generally a last resort option when the original habitat is to be destroyed) - however in conservation biology, uncontrolled private introductions of species is considered (rightly in my opinion) as unacceptable conservation practice, especially because such introductions go unrecorded.
How can our professional botanists (and even ourselves to a lesser extent) monitor what is going on to our plants - which species are increasing, which are getting scarcer, which are extending their range, which need of conservation measures etc. if plants suddenly appear in various habitats due to their being sown, transplanted or translocated from one place to another by well meaning individuals?
However, I am in favour of us propagating some of the wild plants in our gardens. If we can grow non-native ones in Qormi, why not try growing a Cistus in my garden? If it sets seed in a garigue somewhere near our town alone, it is natural isn't it?
But then there is the dilemma..... I must say the government people are planting Widnet il-bahar all along our roads. Is it the natural place for it? And to say the truth I would prefer to pass through roads full of planted Tetraclinis then with Acacia or Eucalyptus.
But alas the clock is ticking!
You and RB really have exactly my opinion that is seeds for private gardening is ok (though strictly speaking it should not be practiced)
and Pine have my exact question, whom no expert answered yet.
Could you please someone tell us? - There is a difference in what is preached here and what is done ouside. The Gov has a compitent/experienced tendered nursery, which knows the rules. The nursery would make more money to plant ornamentals rather than indigenous / endemic / plants, so it seems there is a consulted plan.
To keep with pine's example (there are more of course) this Asteracea produce thousands of seeds which travels to a relatively long distance by wind and so probably new plantlets / populations over 'new' garigue nearby is quite possible.
i would recommend to plant only native sp (and native, even local proveniences since a tetraclinis from Maqluba might not be the same as a tetraclinis from Mellieha) in projects in the open countryside. and thats only if i can not prevent the planting by any means. and even than nothing is final. i was told that Nature Trust has tree guardians in Wied Gholliegha who are instructed to look out for a big, long haired guy with an axe.
but when it comes to places in towns the problem is more complicated. you should definitely plant a lot of greenery in your towns (and not only because of the Maltese summer). Planting non native, harmful trees like eucaliptus and acacia is definitely wrong. but its done since they are cheap and they grow well, too well actually.
i would recommend to plant only native trees like Tetraclinis (but thats very slow growing) or Quercus ilex along roads. if non-native sp are planted at least known invasives like Schinus or acacia should be avoided. about the flowering shrubs and herbs it would be difficult to depend only on the local stuff but its nice that its being used to some extent.
about collecting native sp for your garden, i personally trust RB, Pine or Admin not to deplete wild pop but whats the difference between you and the families picking armfulls of Narcissus in spring? you will say you are conservationists and you are not damaging the wild pops. but what if these families say the same? can you reserve for you the right to do what you want to forbid them? we are back to the central authority which has to control everything, whether we like it or not and whether they do their job the way we like it or not. just imagine Ta'Cenc ravaged for native sp by thousands of gardeners all using the excuse that they heard sth about a golf course being build here and they only wanted to save the poor plants.
about buyng native plants from the nurseries we are back to the problem with proveniences and even subspecies.
but you can always try Gaia (not that i approve of everything they do but they have Timothy as an advisor sometimes so they are the best option you have).
personaly, i would like more (but only "save") natives being planted in public or private gardens but i always appreciate the diversity of ornamentals seen in San Anton or some private gardens in Attard or St Julians.
With Narcissus, somewhere in the forum it was said that it is fine for authorities to be pick it up. Once I stopped a man and his wife who had 2 baskets full of narcissus scapes. I said that it is not good (maybe I used the word illegal too ) to pick all that, and you know what he replied?
Why not, they sell them in the market of B'Kara for 10c a bunch - I have not confirmed personally this but I heard this rumours from other winds.
BTW, by private garden I meant out little house gardens not Public gardens - so hope its fine to have Anchusa azurea, Verbascum, Cistus, and such nice plants in my garden instead of the foreign cultivars.
For a start they can sponsor this website it's educating lots of people
Yes, even collecting a few seeds for the gardens should be done carefully and should be strictly restricted to species that are not protected.
I completely agree with Sdravko regarding provenance - if different populations have been isolated from each other for a long time, they may have genetically diverged from one another and might have developed local adaptations etc - (subspecies, varieties, forms or whatever - the level is not so important) Such populations should be kept separate from each other to maintain this diversity. Personal initiatives could lead to disruption of this diversity.
Should we care not to mess with genetics and just lose the species?
Obviously I am not saying that we should just go out and collect bulbs and everything in sight. We seem to be a group that are scientifically orientated in safeguarding our wild plants. We can try and begin a sort of programme ourselves on specific plants. We can give the plants grown to MEPA for example, and they can plant them scientifically as you are stating robcar. But at least I feel I can play a more active role on this tiny island.
Or we can make a sort of silent mysterious group hux. An underground organisation
However genetics are important - had a concerned individual decided to restore the St Paul's island lizards with lizards from somewhere else, the native subspecies would still have been messed up through the introduction of genes from a different sub-species. The fact that the authorities failed to tackle the problem in a timely manner does not mean that an amateur 'solution' could have worked.
I agree with you about doing something - however re-introducing or introducing plants is definitely not the top priority for conservation of our local flora - giving too much importance to introductions will devalue the basic concept of conservation (here I am not talking about conserving a species for a particular use - eg for agricultural value) - a species is valuable only when it is living and reproducing in its natural habitat - what is the value of a cactus in a pot if it has gone extinct in the wild?
Incidentally developers are among the most fervent supporters of introducing and re-introducing plants - if such plant translocations become common and are an accepted manner of 'conservation' are considered ok, no habitat is 'sacred' any more - in their view rare species can always be moved to somewhere less 'inconvenient'
Most conservation work should target habitat protection, improvement and management - restoring a degraded habitat will not protect a particular species but a whole range of species - re-introducing species is generally valuable as part of an overall project involving habitat restoration - In any case, unless the factors that have led to the habitat degradation in the first place are not tackled (human activities, invasive species, fertiliser leaching from agricultural land etc) initiatives will not be successful - as you and RB have stated well in an earlier post, introducing species in unsuitable habitats is bound to be unsuccessful in the long term
However we come to the usual problem - conservation done properly requires resources and unless resources (finance, time, work etc) are not made available in some way, a satisfactory outcome is rather unlikely.
having native plants in your garden is a cool thing unless you practice the collecting the way for which certain people are known for. (several rare Maltese sp only exist in in small captive pops in a certain private Garden near Marsaxmett Harbour, not always because their native sites were destroyed by development).
but where is the exact limit of what we are allowed? we think what we do is ok and some of us express it in this forum. that might lure other people to think they can do some collecting themselves "since it is obviously ok because i read about it on the internet"
the main burden of educating people about conservation matters does not lie with MEPA but with schools, universities and more informal groups like this forum.
so i strongly support Robcars oppinion to collect only stuff thats not protected (best not to collect anything thats in the red data book).
how everybody deals with collecting protected plants from construction sites or with collecting seeds or single flowers of such plants is his or her own responsibility but we should not advocate such actions too much on the internet.
there are numerous organisation in Malta which try to propagate rare stuff for conservation and ornamental purposes (sometimes i think there are too many since none of them seems to know about the others efforts). maybe we should try to intensify our cooperation with them so that everybody can profit from the others efforts.
no, seriously, there are too many groups, most with some legal right to cultivate and plant rare stuff. but since they usually dont tell everybody its like having too many secret orgs all meddling with plants. some have more expertise, others dont, others think they have, some even know they are doing more damage than good and so they get good at being bad in their work. those are the guys i admire most.
remove the invasives wherev er you see them and try to prevent all construction or othrer detrimental projects in natural areas. even one single petition or a ricinus pulled out in the right place will help Maltese nature more than any amount of secret planting.