Long-term future of St Andrews Botanic Garden secured

Thursday 6 July 2023
The Botanic Garden aims to investigate and develop novel approaches to support habitats and species

The long-term future of St Andrews Botanic Garden has been secured following the signing of a 40-year lease agreement by the St Andrews Botanic Garden Trust and site owners, the University of St Andrews.

This new agreement represents a shared commitment to the long-term management of the Botanic Garden, enabling new opportunities for investment and further skills development, as well as increased community involvement.

The 40-year lease builds on recent initiatives which have seen considerable investment in botanical programmes, education and community support. Examples of recent initiatives that demonstrate the changing role of St Andrews Botanic Garden include the Tangled Bank, a flagship conservation project that investigates the impact of climate change on temperate habitats, and community programmes such as the Planting for your Piece project, which provides opportunities for people struggling with mental health conditions to connect and build relationships.

Creating the ‘Tangled Bank’

Dr Harry Watkins, Executive Director at St Andrews Botanic Garden, said recent changes within the Botanic Garden have resulted in increased visitor numbers – visits by students at the University have tripled over the past three years, while visits by local residents have doubled.

However, he said, these changes are just the beginning and the shift in visitor patterns provides a sound footing for the next steps.

Dr Watkins explained: “St Andrews Botanic Garden is currently developing a Master Plan, which will enable opportunities for further investment and development so that it can meet ambitious targets for sustainability, conservation and education, underpinned by partnership working within Fife as well as internationally.

“Climate change is the most pressing challenge of our era, and almost every solution to it requires a better understanding of how plants evolve and adapt. There are opportunities in a botanic garden to investigate and develop novel approaches to support habitats and species, and both the University of St Andrews and St Andrews Botanic Garden Trust are committed to not only securing the long-term future of the Botanic Garden but also working together on botanical programmes and initiatives.”

Dr Harry Watkins with Professor Dame Sally Mapstone, Professor Gareth Miles, Assistant Vice-Principal (Dean of Science), and Professor Thomas Meagher

University of St Andrews Principal, Professor Dame Sally Mapstone FRSE, said: “Sustainability is at the heart of the University Strategy 2022-2027 and, like our commitment to Social Responsibility, runs through everything we do. The work being done at the Botanic Garden is significant in terms of responding to the challenges of climate change, supporting biodiversity and nurturing and promoting our local community and environment.

“Maintaining a close relationship with the Botanic Garden is so important to the University. Further collaboration will create opportunities for learning and research as well as conservation. Many of our students are also active volunteers, helping to support the work of the garden and projects which are driving responsible change. In addition to this long-term agreement, the University has also supported specific projects including the Tangled Bank, which was given financial assistance from the University Community Fund.”

Professor Thomas Meagher, Chair of the Trustees at St Andrews Botanic Garden, said: “Botanic gardens have embraced a renewed role in the emerging societal response to the challenges of biodiversity loss and climate change, and the St Andrews Botanic Garden is no exception. We have emerged from the global pandemic stronger than ever, having taken the big step to zero C as well as having established a leadership role in emphasising support of nature and reinforcement of socially inclusive public awareness of biodiversity.

“Our growing scientific mission supports community-based conservation initiatives promoted by the Garden, as well as providing a local forum for engagement with the larger world of biodiversity conservation. Our growing partnership with the University of St Andrews also opens renewed possibilities for education and research that resonate strongly with the social mission of both institutions. The establishment of a 40-year lease is a strong step forward for the Garden and reflects our growing relationship with the University of St Andrews. This commitment puts the Garden in a strong position for future-facing development and growth.”

Issued by the University of St Andrews Communications Office.

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