Since time immemorial, people have gathered plant and animal resources for their needs. Examples include edible nuts, mushrooms, fruits, herbs, spices, gums, game, fodder, fibres used for construction of shelter and housing, clothing or utensils, and plant or animal products for medicinal, cosmetic or cultural uses. Even today, hundreds of millions of people, mostly in developing countries, derive a significant part of their subsistence needs and income from gathered plant and animal products (Iqbal 1993; Walter 2001). Gathering of high value products such as mushrooms (morels, matsutake, truffles), medicinal plants (ginseng, black cohosh, goldenseal) also continues in developed countries for cultural and economic reasons (Joneset al.2002).
Among these uses, medicinal plants play a central role, not only as traditional medicines used in many cultures, but also als trade commodities which meet the demand of often distant markets. For the purpose of this paper the term "medicinal and aromatic plant" (MAP) is defined to cover the whole range of plants used not only medicinallysensu strictubut also in the neighbouring and often overlapping fields of condiments, food and cosmetics.
Demand for a wide variety of wild species is increasing with growth in human needs, numbers and commercial trade. With the increased realization that some wild species are being over-exploited, a number of agencies are recommending that wild species be brought into cultivation systems (BAH 2002; Lambertet al.1997; WHO, IUCN and WWF 1993). Cultivation can also have conservation impacts, however, and these need to be better understood. Medicinal plant production through cultivation, for example, can reduce the extent to which wild populations are harvested, but it also may lead to environmental degradation and loss of genetic diversity as well as loss of incentives to conserve wild populations (Anon. 2002b).
The relationship betweenin-situandex-situconservation of species is an interesting topic with implications for local communities, public and private land owners and managers, entire industries and, of course, wild species. Identifying the conservation benefits and costs of the different production systems for MAP should help guide policies as to whether species conservation should take place in nature or the nursery, or both (Bodekeret al.1997).
In this paper, we review global trends in the close relationship between cultivation and wild harvest of MAP species, then make recommendations on steps that should be taken to achieve a balance between consumption, conservation and cultivation.
CBD and the ecosystem approach
Since its adoption in 1992, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) has strived to implement its three major goals: the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components, and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits from the use of genetic resources. Although MAP have not been explicitly on the agenda of the various CBD meetings, all three goals of the Convention are fully applicable to MAP resources.
In decision V/6, the Conference of the Parties of the CBD adopted the ecosystem approach as the primary framework for action under the Convention. It is a strategy for the integrated management of land, water and living resources that promotes conservation and sustainable use in an equitable way. The ecosystem approach is based on the application of appropriate scientific methodologies focused on levels of biological organization which encompass the essential processes, functions and interactions among organisms and their environment. In April 2002, the CBD adopted the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation which provides a policy environment that is particularly well suited to addressing the conservation challenges for MAP in a coherent way (see Appendix 3).
Concept of sustainability
As a base line element of the ecosystem approach it has to be recognized that humans, with their cultural diversity, are an integral component of ecosystems. In conceptual terms, the essence of sustainable development is expressed by the relationship between people and the ecosystem around it. This implies that ultimately one is entirely dependent upon the other. Human and ecosystem well-being need to be assessed together. A society is thought to be sustainable when both the human condition and the condition of the ecosystem are satisfactory or improving. The system improves only when both the condition of the ecosystem and the human condition improve (Prescott-Allen and Prescott-Allen 1996).