MBG Research: Conferences: XVI IBC
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XVI International Botanical Congress
1-7 August 1999, Saint Louis

The XVI International Botanical Congress took place on August 1-7, 1999, at the America’s Center in St. Louis, Missouri. This was the first IBC to be held in North America in 30 years, following the Seattle Congress in 1969 and subsequent IBCs in Leningrad, Sydney, Berlin, and Tokyo. The XVI IBC was the largest convention to meet in St. Louis in 1999, measured at more than 20,000 room-nights.

About 4,700 delegates from 85 countries and every state and territory of the USA attended the Congress and presented some 1,500 talks, most of which were organized within some 220 symposia, and more than 2,600 posters. About 45% of all delegates came from outside of the USA, primarily from Europe but with substantial numbers from Japan, China, Latin America, South Asia, and even Africa. About one-third of the delegates were graduate students; they, with delegates from developing countries, were the main focus of the Congress travel fellowship program, which provided support to more than 600 individuals.

At the Opening Session, the assembled delegates were greeted by IBC President Peter H. Raven, the Honorable Mel Carnahan, Governor of Missouri, and the Honorable Clarence Harmon, Mayor of St. Louis. Dr. Raven introduced 26 Honorary Vice-Presidents from around the world, selected for their contributions to botany in their countries, and several distinguished IBC Past Presidents. He also presented the Millennium Botany Award to eight distinguished scientists for lifetime achievement to botany. The XVI IBC was dedicated to the memory of Dr. Frans Stafleu, and the Congress Vice-Presidents, Jose Sarukhan (Mexico) and John McNeill (Canada), addressed the delegates on behalf of their respective countries. Dr. Rita Colwell, Director of the National Science Foundation, highlighted the importance of integrated science, and Dr. Karl-Henrik Robčrt (Sweden), founder of The Natural Step environmental organization, presented an inspiring call-to-arms for increased awareness and cooperative action in addressing the environmental crisis. The Session closed with a delightful program by the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, after which delegates retired to an all-Congress reception.

The Scientific Program of the XVI IBC was both broad and multi-disciplinary. In an effort to bridge some of the disciplinary gaps that currently exist in biology, the Program Committee established a novel series of 20 Keynote Symposia, each of which addressed a critical research problem using two or more fundamentally different approaches. The other 200 General Symposia were established by open submission, though a number were solicited in order to fill what the Committee considered to be gaps in overall subject coverage. Plant systematists comprised the largest block of delegates, but were joined by numerous ecologists, physiologists, molecular biologists, biochemists, and many other specialty groups. Symposium topics included some of the most critical biological and social issues of our day: species extinction and conservation of ecosystems, the family tree of life, genetic improvement of crop plants, global climate change, the search for and development of new medicines from plants and associated intellectual property issues, and the challenges of recording, sorting, and using the flood of biological information. Publications resulting from the XVI IBC include the Abstracts, Program, and Daily Bulletin (available at address below), the Proceedings (publ. date 8/2000), and numerous symposium proceedings publications in journals such as the Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden.

One of the highlights of the IBC in the opinion of many took place at the Congress Banquet on Wednesday, August 4, when Dr. G. Ledyard Stebbins, perhaps the major figure in evolutionary botany in the 20th century, now 90 years old, was presented the Distinguished Service Award by the American Institute of Biological Sciences. Following a series of tributes by colleagues and former students, Dr. Stebbins surprised many in the audience by presenting a marvelous speech, and even sang a little ditty on evolution.

In an effort to take best advantage of the presence of so many distinguished scientists from around the world, presenting research of great interest to society at large, the Congress organizers made special efforts to invite press coverage of the IBC. These efforts were extraordinarily successful, as more than 75 journalists from print, radio, and television outlets worldwide covered the Congress, and many attended press briefings that were organized around specific topics of interest. The resulting coverage -- in local, national, and international outlets and on the Internet – was exceptional and gratifyingly accurate and informative, demonstrating at least that journalists and the general public have considerable interest in science when it is clearly presented and addresses important societal concerns.

The Congress hosted an Exhibit area, in which some 80 publishers, equipment suppliers, professional societies, and government agencies displayed information and products. The Exhibits surrounded a food court, and were themselves surrounded by the poster exhibition, resulting in a high level of traffic and interest within the hall. Considerable attention was paid to providing time and conversational space so that delegates would have ample opportunity to converse, interact, and socialize easily and often. Evenings were left free for society receptions, banquets, and casual gatherings, and many delegates availed themselves of tickets reserved for the IBC at St. Louis Cardinal baseball games.

A traditional feature of IBCs is a series of Field Trips, and the XVI IBC offerings, ranging from local day-trips to multi-day excursions farther afield, were attended by more than 300 delegates. Most trips focused on ecosystems within the Mississippi Valley or the adjacent Ozark Plateau, but trips to California, Colorado, the Edwards Plateau in Texas, and the New Jersey Pine Barrens were equally successful. The Congress also sponsored Local Tours in St. Louis and surrounding areas, and 590 delegates went on 19 tours that highlighted the art, architecture, history, and shopping of the St. Louis region.

An important part of the IBC actually took place the week prior to the Congress, on July 26-30, 1999, at the Missouri Botanical Garden, as nearly 300 delegates participated in the Nomenclature Section. The Section debates and votes upon proposals for changes to the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature, which is the official set of rules governing the naming of plants. The changes approved at this meeting are now being incorporated into the next published version of the Code.

For further information, contact:
Peter C. Hoch
Missouri Botanical Garden
P. O. Box 299
St. Louis, MO 63166
Email: peter.hoch@mobot.org
Ph. + 314-577-5175

Dr. Syed I. Ali, Pakistan
Professor Sergio Archangelsky, Argentina
Dr. Mary T. Kalin Arroyo, Chile
Professor Pieter Baas, The Netherlands
Dr. Isa Omar Uly Baitulin, Kazakstan
Dr. Lev Ustianovich Budantsev, Russia
Dr. Adrienne E. Clarke, Australia
Dr. Johanna Döbereiner, Brazil
Professor Dr. Friedrich Ehrendorfer, Austria
Dr. Else M. Friis, Sweden
Professor Pierre-Henri Gouyon, France
Professor Chaia Clara Heyn, Israel
Professor Vernon Heywood, England
Dr. Stanley J. Hughes, Canada
Dr. Brian J. Huntley, South Africa
Professor Kunio Iwatsuki, Japan
Dr. Jiang Zehui, China
Dr. Calestous Juma, Kenya
Dr. T. N. Khoshoo, India
Dr. Christian Körner, Switzerland
Dr. Ernesto Medina S., Venezuela
Professor Tamás Pócs, Hungary
Professor Sir Ghillean T. Prance, England, UK
Dr. Jerzy Rzedowski, Mexico
Professor Jozef S. Schell, Germany
Dr. Jameson H. Seyani, Malawi
Professor Marc Van Montagu, Belgium
Dr. Xu Zhi-hong, China

Recipients of the Millennium Botany Award:
Dr. Rupert C. Barneby
Dr. C. T. Ingold
Dr. Graziela Maciel Barroso
Dr. Alicia Lourteig
Professor Dr. Knut Faegri
Dr. Rogers McVaugh
Dr. John L. Harper
Dr. Jerzy Rzedowski

Past Presidents:
Acad. Armen L. Takhtajan, XII IBC, Leningrad
Sir Rutherford Robertson, XIII IBC, Sydney
Professor Karl Esser, XVI IBC, Berlin
Professor Masaki Furuya, XV IBC, Tokyo


Resolution I

The botanists of the world, convened at the XVI International Botanical Congress, St. Louis, Missouri, USA, August 1999, noting that as many as two-thirds of the world's 300,000 plant species are in danger of extinction in nature during the course of the 21st century, and in view of the dependence of human beings on plants for almost every aspect of life, and our expectations for using them to build more sustainable, healthier, and better lives in the future, call for

the establishment of a new coordinating body associated with the United Nations to monitor the status of plants throughout the world, detect those in most danger, and take steps to conserve them in nature, in botanic gardens, or in gene banks, and preferably a combination of these strategies;

securing additional funds for the study of plants throughout the world both by strengthening the major museums and other institutions that have holdings of specimens and literature and are thus of global importance, and by building capacity to deal with plants in every country of the world;

supporting the maintenance of genetically adequate and generally available samples of the world's plant species in botanic gardens and gene banks throughout the world, and thus building on the 30 percent of plant species already estimated to be in cultivation;

making all of the information about plants generally available on the Internet;

placing additional emphasis on the importance of controlling alien introduced plants and animals to help ensure the survival of biodiversity throughout the world;

maintaining, at the national level, an active census of the status of each country's plants, so that it will always be obvious which are well protected in nature, which are so abundant as not to cause concern, and which are rare, threatened, or endangered;

actively developing and implementing plans to conserve the world's economic plants, paying special attention to crops and their wild relatives;

devoting special attention to the conservation of medicinal plants, which are fundamentally important to the livelihood and traditions of the great majority of the world's people, and to the development and implementation of means for their sustainable use;

funding internationally an ongoing program of research on plant population biology and reproductive characteristics, so that the genetics and ecology of plants can be well understood and used as elements in conservation schemes generally; and

supporting the program of the Species Survival Commission (SSC) of the World Conservation Union (IUCN), which will identify the world's "hot spots," areas to which large numbers of unique species are restricted, and will conserve their plants, a key strategy in protecting the world's flora.

Resolution II

Recognizing that plants are the essential basis of human existence on Earth; and that plants provide our food, most of our energy and medicines, maintain the atmosphere we breathe, give essentials for life to all other organisms, and are a source of beauty and inspiration in our environments; and yet recognizing that human actions are resulting in the widespread extinction of species of plants and other organisms, rivaling the mass extinction events of the past;

Botanists of 85 nations meeting at the XVI International Botanical Congress in St. Louis, Missouri, USA, August 1999, therefore call on governments and policy makers to:

recognize the importance of developing and maintaining scientific expertise, provide resources for the education and training of scientists, and maintain career opportunities, so that young people will enter scientific fields, especially in the biological sciences;

ensure that knowledge of sustainable processes is fully developed, disseminated, and shared throughout the world;

actively develop floras and detailed accounts of the plants of all regions, which provide the basic information used to protect plants and utilize them sustainably;

support collaborative programs between and among developed and developing countries;

ensure high priority be given to the maintenance of botanical museums, herbaria, libraries, archives, gardens, living plant collections and gene banks, to ensure the long-term survival and ongoing accessibility of these hard-won collections for present and future researchers; and

provide for the wide dissemination of information throughout the world by facilitating universal access to the increasingly powerful tools of electronic information management and communication.

Resolution III

In view of the importance of plants to human life, botanists from 85 countries meeting at the XVI International Botanical Congress in St. Louis, Missouri, USA, in August 1999 confirm their resolve to:

increase our knowledge of the diversity and relationships of plants, the processes and requirements of their growth, their reproductive characteristics, their habitats, and all other aspects of their biology, and to make that knowledge accessible to all;

advocate to policy-makers the relevance of the plant sciences to decisions in the use of resources and to seek ways to foster sustainable processes for the preservation of plants, and thus maintain the quality of human life on earth; and

cooperate within the botanical community to secure the future for a broad and integrated field of plant sciences.

Resolution IV

Whereas plans are now underway to launch the DIVERSITAS-International Biodiversity Observation Year (IBOY) for 2001-2002, sponsored by the International Union of Biological Sciences (IUBS), The Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment (SCOPE), the United National Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), The International Union of Microbiological Societies (IUMS), the International Council for Science (ICSU), the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP) and endorsed by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CDB), and

Whereas the success of the DIVERSITAS-IBOY depends on the commitment from the scientific community at the international and national level to support existing projects, propose new ones, and strengthen and integrate efforts of scientists, educators and policy-makers as well as the general public,

Therefore, the assemblage of botanists at the XVI International Botanical Congress, St. Louis, Missouri, USA, August 1999 resolves to:

recognize the importance and timeliness of the DIVERSITAS-IBOY initiative and endorse further development of the activities of the program by proposing projects and supporting development of national and international DIVERSITAS-IBOY committees.

Resolution V

The XVI International Botanical Congress, in St. Louis, Missouri, USA, August 1999, resolves that the decisions of its Nomenclature Section with regard to the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature, as well as the appointment of officers and members of the nomenclature committees, made by that Section during its meetings on July 26 - 30, 1999, be accepted.

Resolution VI

Noting that the VII International Botanical Congress, in Stockholm, Sweden, 1950, resolved that in principle, the International Botanical Congresses be held alternatively in Europe and outside Europe;

Recognizing that this resolution was intended at the time to extend the geographical scope of Congresses, but could today actually limit their scope; and

Recognizing the large number of botanists and vigorous botanical activity in all continents of the world;

The XVI International Botanical Congress, in St. Louis, Missouri, USA, in August 1999, rescinds the resolution of the VII Congress and resolves that the sites for future congresses should be selected to facilitate a balance in attendance of botanists from all regions of the world.