Image of the desert in Joshua Tree.

What We Do

What We Do To Protect and Sustain Biodiversity

Human Life Depends on Plants

Plants provide food, clothing, shelter, medicine, and the raw materials to meet many other human needs. Plants make the air we breathe through photosynthesis, and they create the rain that waters the world. The beauty of plants nurtures our souls and inspires our imaginations.

Protecting and Sustaining Biodiversity

The New York Botanical Garden has been exploring the botanical world, discovering new species, and studying and describing plants since 1891. Our great strength is the detailed and well-documented knowledge of the plant and fungal kingdoms gained over more than 100 years. In a modern world where biodiversity is under threat as never before, NYBG’s scientific programs contribute to three elements of effective conservation:

Discover. Our scientists discover diversity, in order to develop effective conservation plans and priorities, and to evaluate progress. We are involved in exploration at all scales, from the smallest molecule to the tallest tree, we uncover new knowledge with unanticipated impacts, and this process of scientific discovery sparks creativity and imagination.

  • Decipher biodiversity through exploration and systematics research
  • Enhance understanding of the biological and genetic mechanisms of plants as they relate to biodiversity and climate change
  • Develop the Herbarium and other resources, and bring them together into a massive digital library available to the world to inform decision-making; maintain state-of-the-art care of physical collections
  • Create checklists and floras, including World Flora Online, Useful Flora On-Line, Plants at Risk, Ecoflora of NYC, checklists and floras in international projects
  • Enrich the Geneology of Life
  • Employ genomics, conservation genetics and bioinformatics as tools for greater understanding and modeling of plant phenology, species distribution and adaptation in response to climate change
  • Share knowledge through publications


Involve. We involve local people in understanding and valuing their ecosystems.

  • Build capacity through graduate education  and training programs in the US
  • Build capacity in communities in targeted international locations through training and technical advice in managing their own natural resources
  • Preserve indigenous culture and indigenous plant knowledge and improve lives of indigenous people through ethnobotany programs (biocultural conservation)
  • Educate visitors to the NYBG about plant conservation through lectures, education programs and exhibits
  • Provide opportunities for conservation learning and action through citizen science programs
  • Contribute to human health through preserving and educating about traditional herbal medicine practices, informing the development of new pharmaceuticals, screening dietary supplements and identifying genetic traits with the potential to improve agriculture


Protect. Inform Selection of Protected Areas and Management of Natural Areas of High Importance for Biodiversity.

  • Train local forest and natural resource managers
  • Initiate and support sustainable use projects
  • Conduct threat assessments of species
  • Use rapid assessment techniques to set priorities for future targets of protection
  • Understand phylogenetic diversity for priority-setting
  • Advise governments and NGOs on effective approaches to sustainable forest and natural resource management in the US and other countries
  • Develop DNA barcoding to help stem the international trade in endangered species


Learn more about Science and Conservation at

The New York Botanical Garden: