Experts to review trade levels and conservation status of wild plants

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PRESS RELEASE

Experts to review trade levels and conservation status of wild plants

Valuable CITES-listed tree species on top of the agenda

Geneva/Tbilisi, 19 October 2015 – Leading experts from across the globe are meeting in Tbilisi, Georgia, from 19 to 23 October 2015 for the 22nd meeting of the Plants Committee of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Over 160 delegates are expected to attend the meeting, including observers from Parties, intergovernmental bodies, non-governmental organizations and private businesses. 

Top on the agenda will be the conservation status and exploitation levels of several high- value timber and heartwood species, such as African teak, rosewoods and ebonies, as well as other economically valuable non-timber forest products such as African cherry, agarwood and sandalwood. The agenda also includes timber identification guidelines, and reviews of the conservation status and trade in species of aloe and cacti. Furthermore, the Committee will consider options for reporting on trade in artificially propagated plants; guidance on making non-detriment findings for tree species and perennial plants; and the cooperation with other biodiversity-related multilateral environmental agreements.

Commenting on the significance of the meeting, CITES Secretary General John E. Scanlon stated that "the science-based recommendations reached at meetings of the Plants Committee provide the Parties to CITES with the best available scientific information to guide their decision-making on the conservation and sustainable use of wild plants.”

"We are most grateful to the Government and the people of Georgia for hosting this critical meeting as we prepare for the 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to be held in Johannesburg, South Africa, in September 2016. Georgia offers an excellent example of the importance of our Convention for conservation as well as sustainable use and trade. The country exports annually some 15 million wild, CITES-listed snowdrop bulbs. The diligent implementation of CITES by Georgia’s authorities has ensured that this trade is legal and sustainable, providing a sizeable income for local people and incentives for protecting the fragile mountain ecosystems where the bulbs are harvested.”, added Scanlon.

More about the 22nd Plants Committee meeting

The Plants Committee provides the technical and scientific basis for the implementation of the Convention as far as flora is concerned, ensuring that CITES decision-making on trade in plants has a sound scientific basis. The meeting of the Plants Committee will consider issues regarding a wide range of plants that are traded in the international market as wood products, musical instruments, medicines, gums, cosmetics, bulbs, ornamentals, incense or perfumes, amongst other things.

Discussions on the sustainability of international trade in tree species will certainly dominate the meeting. There are around 100,000 known species of trees worldwide. More than 600 are now listed under CITES, of which some 400 are traded for their timber. 20 of the meeting’s 61 agenda items are about tree species, with most attention focused on African teak and agarwood. The discussions will translate into a large number of recommendations and measures to enhance the sustainable use and management of these species. Two species will be of particular importance for this meeting:

African teak (Pericopsis elata), also known as Afrormosia is found in the drier parts of semi-deciduous forests in Central and West Africa. In recent years, trade in afromosia timber has soared, and levels of exploitation have been unsustainable while the species' habitat has declined. The Plants Committee will discuss and review new management systems proposed by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and advise on best practices to trade in this valuable species while ensuring its long-term survival in the wild.

Agarwood is a resin obtained from various genera of trees, which have an extensive range of distribution in central and south-East Asia. It results from the trees’ reaction to a fungus infection of the wood. Agarwood-based incenses and perfumes are used for religious, fragrance and ornament purposes in Arabic and Asian countries. One kilogram of the highest quality of agarwood can reach a value of 2 million USD on international markets. In natural forests, part of the wood of only one in twenty trees is infected with the fungus. Agarwood is usually difficult to detect. Therefore, in many trees are felt and cut up in smaller pieces just to look for the pockets that may be imbibed with the valuable resin. This causes indiscriminate cutting, which poses a serious threat to the tree species. The Plants Committee will learn about the progress made by agarwood range States to manage this resource sustainably, and consider their proposals for future actions, which may then be presented at CoP17.

See also:

For more information on the 22nd meeting of the Plants Committee, please contact Liu Yuan (yuan.liu@cites.org) and Milena Sosa Schmidt (milena.schmidt@cites.org). For official documents and other information, see http://cites.org/eng/com/pc/index.php.

17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES, Johannesburg, South Africa 2016

The outcomes of the 22nd meeting of the Animals Committee will be considered at the 66th  meeting of the Standing Committee (Geneva, January 2016) and at the upcoming 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES, to be held in Johannesburg, South Africa, from 24 September to 5 October 2016.

About CITES

With 181 Parties, CITES remains one of the world's most powerful tools for biodiversity conservation through the regulation of trade in wild fauna and flora. Thousands of species are internationally traded and used by people in their daily lives for food, housing, health care, ecotourism, cosmetics or fashion.

CITES regulates international trade in over 35,000 species of plants and animals, including their products and derivatives, ensuring their survival in the wild with benefits for the livelihoods of local people and the global environment. The CITES permit system seeks to ensure that international trade in listed species is sustainable, legal and traceable.

CITES was signed in Washington D.C. on 3 March 1973 and entered into force on 1 July 1975.

Learn more about CITES by visiting www.cites.org or connecting to:

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