Plant Diversity ›› 2016, Vol. 38 ›› Issue (05): 209-220.DOI: 10.1016/j.pld.2016.09.002

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Plant species with extremely small populations (PSESP) in China: A seed and spore biology perspective

Ellie Merrett Wadea, Jayanthi Nadarajana, Xiangyun Yangb, Daniel Ballesterosa, Weibang Sunc, Hugh W. Pritcharda   

  1. a. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Wellcome Trust Millennium Building, Wakehurst Place, Ardingly, West Sussex, RH17 6TN, UK;
    b. The Germplasm Bank of Wild Species, Kunming Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Kunming, 650201, Yunnan, PR China;
    c. Kunming Botanical Garden, Kunming Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Kunming, 650201, Yunnan, PR China
  • Received:2016-08-06 Revised:2016-09-06 Online:2016-10-25 Published:2021-11-05
  • Contact: Hugh W. Pritchard
  • Supported by:
    Funding(No.U1302262) to W.B.SunfromtheNSFC-Yunnanjoint fund on key projects is gratefully acknowledged. The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew receives grant-in-aid from Defra. This joint work was undertaken under the Memorandum of Agreement (2014e24) on Plant and Fungal Science between the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. HWP thanks Darwin Initiative Project 21-003 on cycads for funding.

Abstract: Approximately one fifth of the world's plants are at risk of extinction. Of these, a significant number exist as populations of few individuals, with limited distribution ranges and under enormous pressure due to habitat destruction. In China, these most-at-risk species are described as ‘plant species with extremely small populations’ (PSESP). Implementing conservation action for such listed species is urgent. Storing seeds is one of the main means of ex situ conservation for flowering plants. Spore storage could provide a simple and economical method for fern ex situ conservation. Seed and spore germination in nature is a critical step in species regeneration and thus in situ conservation. But what is known about the seed and spore biology (storage and germination) of at-risk species? We have used China's PSESP (the first group listing) as a case study to understand the gaps in knowledge on propagule biology of threatened plant species. We found that whilst germination information is available for 28 species (23% of PSESP), storage characteristics are only known for 8% of PSESP (10 species). Moreover, we estimate that 60% of the listed species may require cryopreservation for long-term storage. We conclude that comparative biology studies are urgently needed on the world's most threatened taxa so that conservation action can progress beyond species listing.

Key words: Threatened species, Orchids, Storage characteristics, Cryopreservation, ex situ conservation