Orchid conservation is currently limited by a century old paradigm, rooted in the herbarium centered inventories of imperial resources, the Europe of Great Powers and steamships, and orchids as playthings of a small upper class. Genetics, ecology, population biology were in the future, and horticultural techniques for growing and for large scale propagation were unsatisfactory. A major revolution in nearly every aspect of orchid science, growing, and relations to society, spread over the past 100 years but accelerating in the last 25 years, calls for new systems approaches to the urgent need for action on orchid conservation. Many present attempts are inappropriate, based upon outdated ideas. Others are so slow and cumbersome that little or no actual conservation can be carried out. These same policies inhibit many types of research on orchids. An improved system would save species from extinction and open possibilities for significant new insights in evolutionary biology. The first step is offered here: downlisting many orchids from CITES II.
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