In Situ Botanical Gardens: A Case Study In Zagori, Greece

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European Botanic Gardens in a Changing World: Insights into EUROGARD VIIn situ botanical gardens: a case study in Zagori, GreeceGeorge Karras 1, Evangelos Filis 21Department of Floriculture and Landscape Architecture, Faculty of AgriculturalTechnology, Technological Educational Institute ofEpirus, GR-47100, Arta, Greece, karras@teiep.gr2Decentralized Administration of Epirus – Western Macedonia, Directorate ofAgricultural Affairs of Epirus, Department of Agricultural Exploitations andFishery, GR-45221, Ioannina, Greece, efilis@apdhp-dm.gov.grKeywords: environmental tourism, LIFE, conditions and difficultiesAbstractEnvironmental tourism is a major economic activity in many rural areas of Greece.For this kind of tourism the variety and rarity of local flora is an important pole ofattraction. Among the actions and measures that could be taken for the promotionof local flowers, is the creation of in situ botanical gardens, where the visitors can getan integrated picture of the representative flora of each region.These gardens in order to fulfill their mission, they should meet certain terms andconditions such as: easy access, rich biodiversity (species and habitants) and thenecessary human activity, which is essential for the maintenance of the footpathsand other elements of human and natural environments. A problem that must bemanaged for these kinds of gardens is the organisation of conducted tours. Theproblem arises because the cost of specialized staff can hardly be covered by therural communities while the labeling of botanical species in a changing naturalenvironment is a complex task.The LIFE initiative of EU, gave the opportunity for the implementation of thisconcept. The application region was Zagori, a mountainous area in NW Greece. Forthe in situ botanical garden, an area of about 320 ha was chosen with all the abovementioned characteristics. The problem of the conducted tour was solved by issuinga guide-booklet, which helped the easy identification of the plants of the garden.This booklet was available for free to visitors from local hostels.Evaluation of the operation of this botanical garden gave very satisfactory results forthe first two years. Later, for various reasons, the garden stopped operating, but thefinal conclusion is that the creation of in situ botanical gardens has much to offer notonly in local economy, but also in environmental awareness and education.BackgroundUndoubtedly "The objects of botanical gardens must be mainly scientific andpredominantly instructive" as Ferdinand Mueller (1825 - 1896), the director of theRoyal Botanic Gardens of Melbourne (1852 - 1873) stated, about 150 years before.At the same time the operation of botanical gardens has a significant impact on the143

European Botanic Gardens in a Changing World: Insights into EUROGARD VIlocal economic activity [1]. This effect is direct since it creates new jobs, but alsoindirect, since the gardens attract many visitors each year.This dimension of botanical gardens, acquires considerable importance in areaswhere the economy is based on eco-tourism, especially on their abundant and rareflora. This happens in many rural and mountainous areas of Greece. In these areasthe establishment and the operation of a botanical garden is not something easy toachieve. The reasons are mainly economic, since it requires high cost of establishingand running and their sustainability is extremely difficult to be ensured.In these cases, the creation of in situ botanical gardens, under certain conditions, is aremarkable alternative. Of course these gardens are in no way able to provide thequality and quantity of services, offered by organized and systematic botanicalgardens. Their operation, however, has much to offer not only in local economy, butalso in environmental education and relevant public awareness.Conditions for the establishment of in situ botanical gardensThe creation of an in situ botanical garden must meet certain requirements, in orderto fulfill its objectives. These conditions should be:1. Biodiversity of habitats. This makes the visit much more interesting, as the visitorhas the opportunity to enjoy both a botanical garden and a landscaped one.2. Biodiversity of species. The visitors can easily obtain a complete picture of theflora of the region and to understand the complexity of relationships andinteractions in the natural environment. The variety of species also attracts visitorsand there is no monotony during the tour.3. Safety. These gardens accept guests of all ages and their safety during the tourshould be assured. Dangerous footpaths or passes over rushing streams and steepslopes must be secured with the necessary protective structures. It should also beplaced warning signs for poisonous plants or fruits, and generally measures for thesafe tour of visitors.4. Selection of the location. The choice of a location of an in situ botanical gardenshould ensure:ͻ ĂƐLJ access for the visitors andͻ the balanced growth of the regionAlthough this condition seems obvious, the choice of a suitable location is not easy,due to the intense mountainous landscape in many regions of Greece.5. Elements of cultural heritage. The Greek countryside is full of small churches,stone bridges, terraces, water mills and many other elements of old time humanactivity. It would be extremely interesting if such elements exist within the gardens,indicating the harmony between natural and human environment.6. Support from the local community. The in situ botanical gardens are not able toemploy permanent staff, since they do not have the income like the organizedbotanical gardens. For this reason, their existence and operation is mainly based onthe support of local community and volunteerism. Without this support the life spanof these gardens is limited.The case study of ZagoriThe establishment and the operation of the garden. Zagori is a mountainous regionin northwestern Greece with rich natural and cultural heritage. In this region from144

European Botanic Gardens in a Changing World: Insights into EUROGARD VI1998 till 2002 a project for conservation of terraces was applied, in the frame of theEU Initiative “L.I.F.E.” The leader partner of this project was the Prefecture ofIoannina, while the Technological Educational Institute (TEI) of Epirus was thescientific advisor of the project. The Department of Floriculture and LandscapeArchitecture of TEI proposed the establishment of an in situ botanical garden, as theproject area met many of the conditions mentioned above. The partners of theproject accepted the proposal and 320 ha were defined for this purpose nearNegades village (WGS84: 39.86291oE, 20.847416oE) (Figure 1).The area is characterized by remarkable biodiversity of habitats and plants (forinstance more than 400 plant species were identified). There are also cultivatedterraces (Figure 2) with traditional crops, two small streams, forests and glades(Figure 3). Apart from the terraces, there are two stone bridges (Figure 4) from the19th century, emphasizing the consistency of man and nature.The working group, under the guidance of the scientists of the Department ofFloriculture and Landscape Architecture of TEI, opened new paths, placedinformation signs, built new stairs in steep parts of the area and placed protectiverailings at several passes of the route. All these constructions ensured a pleasant,educational and safe route for the visitors.The conducted tour was managed by issuing a guide-booklet in Greek, under the title“Botanical routes” (Figure 5), which helped the easy identification of the garden’splants. This solution was preferred because the cost of specialized staff could hardlybe covered by the project or by the local authorities, while the labeling of botanicalspecies in a changing natural environment is a complex task.The guide-booklet was divided into three parts. In the first one, there was aschematic map of the garden with the various habitats of the area (Figure 5). Thesecond part obtains the photographs and the description of nearly 170 plants, aswell as the habitat, in which the visitor could find each of them. The plants werecategorized according to their blooming season in 4 groups, for easy identification bythe visitors. Finally the third part of the booklet was an alphabetical list of thescientific and common names of plants of the garden.Five hundred guide-booklets, in Greek, were printed and distributed to the localhostels. The guide-booklets were available for free to the tourists who wanted tovisit the garden, after their commitment to complete a questionnaire concerning theimpressions of their visit.Evaluation of the in situ botanical gardenThe evaluation was performed by analyzing 228 of the above mentioned,questionnaires during 2001 and 2002. The analysis revealed the followingconclusions:1. The 62% of the tourists were satisfied or very satisfied with their visit to thebotanical garden.2. The 38% of the tourists were moderately or not at all satisfied.The reasons for their satisfaction or not, are shown in Figure 6.3. The 74% of the visitors had at least one suggestion for improving the operation ofthe garden. The majority of the above suggestions (about 53%) had to do with thedesire of visitors to have more information about the existing traditional crops, thehistory of the stone bridges, the terraces and other elements of the human145

European Botanic Gardens in a Changing World: Insights into EUROGARD VIenvironment. This finding reflects the need of the tourists to visit somethingdifferent in areas with natural beauty such as Zagori.The following remarks are also worth to be mentioned:x Most of the negative opinions came from tourists who visited the garden duringwinter. These negative opinions reached the 68% for this period.x The 38% of tourists extend their stay in the area for another night, in order tovisit the garden.For the first two years the operation of the garden was satisfactory. Gradually, afterthe termination of the project, the garden was abandoned by the implicatedorganisations. The paths were downgraded or even destroyed due to a lack ofmaintenance. The existing traditional crops were abandoned and many terracescollapsed. It is obvious that the local authorities did not understand the importanceof the garden for the tourism and environmental awareness. Today they haverealized their mistake and try to find the necessary funds to build again the in situbotanic garden.ConclusionsBased on the results of the evaluation and on the owners’ opinion of the hostels ofthe area, it is concluded that the operation of the in situ Botanical Garden waspositive for the region.The garden also helped the visitors to form a complete picture of the flora of thearea, to understand the concept of biodiversity and to become more sensitive toenvironmental issues. Finally the great profit from the whole effort is the gainedknowledge. Both the local municipality and the TEI have understood that a newapproach is needed for the establishment and operation of such kind of gardens.The key points of this new approach are:1. The promotion, the design of infrastructure, as well as the rules for the operationof the in situ botanical garden will be under the supervision of a scientific committee.The members of this committee will come from the scientific staff of TEI of Epirus,the University of Ioannina and other scientific organizations of Epirus.2. The botanical garden should be redesigned by the Department of Floriculture andLandscape Architecture of TEI of Epirus, with the assistance of experts on botanicalgardens.3. The local Municipality will be responsible for maintaining the garden’sinfrastructure. The cost for the maintenance may be derived from the budget of themunicipality, donations, selling souvenirs, sponsoring, etc. [2].4. The conducted tours in the garden can not be based only on guide-booklets. Thiswill be done by trained volunteer staff, as it happens in many well-known botanicalgardens [3].5. The local Municipality, in collaboration with the local Government, should initiatespecific actions to promote the botanical garden in order to become widely known.These actions may be included into existing projects of Epirus’ region.6. The Scientific Committee of the in situ Botanical Garden, in cooperation with theregional services of the Ministry of Education, as well as in cooperation with thehostel owners will design and will implement a project of school visits, educationalcourses [4], summer schools or other models of environmental education [5]. This146

European Botanic Gardens in a Changing World: Insights into EUROGARD VIproject will promote the environmental education and awareness of a crucial publicfor the future of the region.7. Information technology in promoting and improving the functionality of thegarden by creating internet site, GPS information, relevant smartphone applications,etc. should be applied.Apart from the implementation of the above proposals, for the long and successfuloperation of the in situ botanical garden is necessary and essential the support fromthe local community. The existence of the garden will not only help the localeconomy but will be vital in conservation and protection of a unique naturalenvironment in Greece and Europe.References1. Dodd J, Jones C: “Redefining the role of botanic gardens - towards a newsocial purpose” School of Museum Studies, University of Leicester, 2010.2. Ruellan L: “Partnerships and Conservation”, 7th International Congress onEducation in Botanic Gardens, Durban, South Africa, 2009.3. Boyle B: “A guide to good guiding – in 12 easy lessons” 5th InternationalCongress on Education in Botanic Gardens, 2002.4. Gardiner L: “Education through real conservation”, 7th International Congresson Education in Botanic Gardens, Durban, South Africa, 2009.5. Vilbert H: “A new model for environmental education in Argentinian botanicgardens”. 6th International Congress on Education in Botanic Gardens, 2006.Figure 1. Map of the area147

European Botanic Gardens in a Changing World: Insights into EUROGARD VIFigure 2. Cultivated terraces with traditional cropsFigure 3. A glade of the in situ botanical garden with orchids148

European Botanic Gardens in a Changing World: Insights into EUROGARD VIFigure 4. One from the two bridges of the gardenFigure 5. The guide book in Greek, under the title «Botanical routes» and the schematicmap of the habitats of the garden in the guide book149

European Botanic Gardens in a Changing World: Insights into EUROGARD VIReasons for satisfied or very satisfied visitors28%Beauty of the garden36%Abundance of floraIdentification of the flora w ith thehelp of the guide-bookletAll24%12%Reasons for moderately or not at all satisfied visitors21%No difference from the restregion of ZagoriAn expert guide for theconducted tour53%Difficulty of comprehension ofthe guide-booklet26%Figure 6. Reasons for satisfied or not satisfied visitors150

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