Monday, August 4, 2014

Seed Saving For Species Preservation

A new study has found that careful tailoring of seed collections to specific species and situations is critical to preserving plant diversity. Once seeds are saved, they can be reintroduced for planting in suitable locations if conditions are favorable.

In the study, researchers from the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis and the University of Tennessee used simulation-based planning to make sampling recommendations, confirming that a uniform approach to seed sampling is ineffective.

First, collectors must choose their plant populations from a wide area rather than a restricted one. Sampling widely can capture up to nearly 200 percent more rare genes than restricted sampling. Collecting from about 25 maternal plants per population versus 50 plants appears to capture the vast majority of genetic variation.

The study also showed that collecting more than eight to ten seeds per plant leads to high overlap in genetic diversity and wasted effort.

Increasing concern over agriculture and food security and recognition of how fast biodiversity is disappearing has prompted seed banks to ramp up their collections. Botanic gardens that were once focused on showcasing plants now increasingly have a conservation mission as well, according to the study's lead author Sean Hoban.

"Our approach can be used to further refine seed collection guidelines, which could lead to much more efficient and effective collections, allowing us to preserve more diversity of the world's plants. These collections could benefit future ecosystem restoration projects as well as improve agricultural and forestry efforts."

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Artwork: Seed Bank