An evaluation of the rôles of botanic gardens in recreation and conservation
their ownership and financial status is diverse. Most are funded and managed through Universities though some are run by National or Local Government or by charitable or private organizations. Whilst they share a number of characteristics they are diverse in location, aims, objectives and facilities provided. As a consequence of changing economic and social conditions there is growing financial pressure such that a number have closed in the last decade and several are threatened with closure. The research sets out to evaluate the overall costs and benefits of botanic gardens. Their financial costs and revenues are analysed and compared with the costs of managing other urban green space. It is shown that the labour intensive nature of botanic gardens makes them much more expensive to run than Local Authority grounds. The role of botanic gardens in research and higher education is examined by literature review, analysis of published data and interviews with directors and others and shows that the gardens role in education and research is much less than formerly and that current botanical research relies on the gardens only to a small extent. Their current role in the conservation of biodiversity is evaluated. It is shown that, while they have a role in conservation education, with current funding, species conservation on any meaningful scale, could not realistically be accomplished. Their value in public recreation is examined. A cluster analysis of 48 botanic gardens in the UK is used to select a representative sample of four gardens; Edinburgh, Cambridge, Westonbirt and Sheffield, for detailed study. The travel cost method of valuation is used to show that, while recreation benefits are real and previously uncalculated, the sums are much less than the running costs of the gardens. The interests and attitudes of visitors are examined and show that the gardens are of great social value to particular groups. Finally, the diverse benefits of botanic gardens are contrasted with the pressures which are leading to a re—examination of their value and a case argued for a more coherent policy and an enlightened unified organization which will take account of the varied uses of botanic gardens and ensure that all current and future user groups are represented when funding is allocated.