Plantlife and our European partners are engaged in an exciting initiative to promote the conservation of Important Plant Areas to local communities using networks of volunteers.
This project focuses on volunteering as a way to connect plants and people. At each Important Plant Area (IPA), Plantlife International works with national and local wildlife charities to help volunteers from within the local community devise their own plans for plant conservation, tailored to their particular skills, needs and conservation priorities.
In the initial phase of the project, Important Plant Area volunteer networks (IPAnets) were formed in Bulgaria, Macedonia, Romania, the Netherlands and the UK. Amazing things were achieved: monitoring of rare plants, clearing scrub from forest glades, restoring traditional orchards, enabling sustainable grazing, heating buildings using cut vegetation materials, designing material to raise awareness, improving site access and influencing local authorities. Many of these activities involved school children and young people. Presentations about EU environmental legislation have also been completed to hold decision makers to account in relation to these policies.
Local awareness of plants and their conservation needs visibly increased, people have been empowered to help plants within their local patch, and important plant habitats are being protected and well managed. Communication between groups across the whole network spreads experience and lessons learnt, and already the IPAnet is influencing plant conservation at a regional and European level.
To build on the huge success of the initial phase of the Natural Networks project, Plantlife has recently partnered with IUCN and, with funding from the EU EuropeAid fund and the MAVA Foundation, has expanded the Natural Networks project to countries across the Mediterranean. IPAnets are now working at IPAs in Morocco, Algeria, Lebanon, Montenegro, Turkey, and Macedonia.