Plant Diversity ›› 2017, Vol. 39 ›› Issue (06): 373-378.DOI: 10.1016/j.pld.2017.11.005

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The contribution of botanic gardens to ex situ conservation through seed banking

Katherine O'Donnell, Suzanne Sharrock   

  1. Botanic Gardens Conservation International, Descanso House, 199 Kew Road, Richmond, Surrey, United Kingdom
  • Received:2017-05-08 Revised:2017-11-26 Online:2017-12-25 Published:2021-11-05
  • Contact: Katherine O'Donnell

Abstract: Target 8 of the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation calls for ‘at least 75 per cent of threatened plant species in ex situ collections, preferably in the country of origin, and at least 20 per cent available for recovery and restoration programmes by 2020’.
Botanic gardens make a significant contribution to ex situ conservation of wild species with more than a third of plant species represented in botanic gardens collections. These collections are a combination of living collection and seed banked material. Seed banking can provide an efficient form of conservation for wild plant genetic diversity.
Information from Botanic Gardens Conservation International's (BGCI) databases (GardenSearch, PlantSearch, ThreatSearch and GlobalTreeSearch) has been analysed as well as survey data to report on global, regional and national seed banking trends.
Information from BGCI's databases indicates that there are at least 350 seed banking botanic gardens in 74 countries. In total 56,987 taxa have been banked including more than 9000 taxa that are threatened with extinction. 6881 tree species are stored in ex situ seed bank collections. More than half (3562) of these tree species are single country endemics and represent species from more than 166 countries.
This study suggests that institutions are increasingly conserving plant species via seed banking. However the majority of species in collections that have a conservation assessment are not threatened with extinction. This disjunction between species that are threatened and those conserved in seed banks needs to be addressed. Data from BGCI's databases can be used to enable prioritisation of threatened plant species for collection and conservation in seed banks. Further recommendations for botanic gardens involved in seed conservation are presented.

Key words: Seed banking, GSPC, ex situ conservation, Conservation assessments, Botanic gardens