Sunday 10 December 2017

Genebank55: conserving plant species at local level

Packed exhibition hall at BSBI Exhibition Meeting 2017
The Genebank55 poster is on the left.
Image: J.  Mitchley 
For anyone who was unable to attend the recent BSBI Exhibition Meeting, we are starting to upload some of the 38 exhibits to this page and have invited exhibitors to tell us a bit more about their projects, latest books, interesting plant finds etc.

First up is a poster by Anna Farrell and Richard Gornall (University of Leicester Botanic Garden) about Genebank55, an initiative to conserve the seeds of locally threatened plants with a view to re-introducing them at some point in the future into suitable local receptor sites. 

Richard said: "We have been losing plant species from our two counties, Leicestershire and Rutland (VC55) at an average rate of 1.5 per year. Some are down to a few individuals. One conservation approach is to take seeds of threatened species into the protective custody of a genebank. This allows the storage of large numbers of individuals from different local populations. 

Yellow Star-of-Bethlehem
Image: Pete Stroh
"This is important because it preserves locally adapted genotypes, valuable for scientific research and possible re-introduction. The initiative complements on a local scale the largely international work of RBG Kew's Millenium Seed Bank at Wakehurst Place.

BSBI members can read more about Genebank55 in the September 2017 issue of BSBI News, which focuses on one of the first beneficiaries of the initiative. It tells how twelve bulbs of what appears to be the last population in VC55 of Gagea lutea (Yellow Star-of-Bethlehem) were taken (with the landowner's permission and full co-operation) and have been grown on at the University of Leicester Botanic GardenAlthough Yellow Star-of-Bethlehem is listed as of Least Concern on the England Red List, it is on the Rare Plant Register for Leicestershire & Rutland

As the BSBI News article, by Richard, Anna and Dr Geoffrey Hall, County Recorder for Leics. & Rutland, points out, "Although there is a strong case to be made for better protection of wild plants by means of habitat management, there is also a good argument for ex situ conservation, either by growing the plants in botanic gardens or by storing seeds in gene-banks". 

Take a look at the poster, which you can download from this page, and see what you think about this initiative. Leave a comment below! 

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