Belgian botany in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries: from plant hunting to nascent nature conservation

Ivan Hoste, Denis Diagre-Vanderpelen
2016 Journal for the History of Environment and Society  
The activities and archives of the Société royale de Botanique de Belgique are a rich source of information about the early decades of conservation in Belgium. In the second half of the nineteenth century botanists witnessed important changes in the landscape that also affected botanical diversity. As plant hunters they could have a real impact on the populations of rare plant species. In the final years of the nineteenth century a new generation of botanists added proposals for practical
more » ... for practical nature conservation in the form of nature reserves to the lamentations about the loss of beauty and biodiversity. The focus of their attention was on "wild" nature and habitats that so far had escaped from human disturbance. With Pour la Protection de la Nature en Belgique (1912), Jean Massart gave conservation in Belgium a program to work with, but in the next decades achievements were minimal. And yet, during the years that preceded Pour la Protection... little seemed to augur these hard times ahead for Belgian conservation. Nature conservation and the Société royale de Botanique de Belgique before 1914 Environmentalism, according to Stephen Bocking (2009: 602), is a moving target, always changing position and appearance. Today, environmentalism is a phenomenon that covers a multitude of interrelated yet separate activities and ways of looking at the world. For many people the word "conservation" means, or meant in the course of time, different things, sometimes pushing them toward creating new terms in order to clarify discussions. Search, for instance, the Internet for the recently created term "new conservation" and you are confronted with discussions
doi:10.1484/j.jhes.5.110828 fatcat:clfcxspaorbflkcsftqb4k4bdu