Saving Seeds for the Future

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Every Day, Four Plant Species Face Extinction

This alarming trend is only a small part of what scientists call the sixth extinction, a massive wipeout of species not seen since the end-Cretaceous period. This latest mass extinction is believed to be driven by human activities altering the surface and atmosphere of the Earth, overexploiting plant and animal species, pollution, and transport of alien species to new locations through human travel. Once a species is extinct, there is no single successful way to bring it back. According to scientific theories, Earth has undergone five massive extinctions, each time losing a significant percentage of families. With the sixth extinction slowly but surely unfolding in our lifetime, certain individuals and organizations have taken steps to ensure conservation and survival of Earth’s biodiversity.

Seed Conservation To Safeguard Biodiversity

The first seed bank of the world was established n 1894 by N. I. Vavilov, a Russian botanist. The All-Russian Scientific Research Institute of Plant Industry has one of known largest plant genetic material collection collections. A famous story is that during World War II, botanists and staff guarding the seed bank chose to starve to death rather eat the saved seeds. In 2000, the Millennium Seed Bank Project was launched as an international conservation project. It was an ambitious project coordinated by the Kew Royal Botanic Gardens in England. It primarily collected seeds from United Kingdom’s native plant species but holds partnerships with nations like Australia, South Africa, Tanzania, Madagascar, and others. On April 2007, the Oxytenanthra abyssinica was banked as its billionth seed. It currently has close to two billion seeds in store. On October 2009, the project reached its goal of banking 10% of the world’s wild plant species. The project is currently trying to achieve the goal of 25 % of the world’s overall plant species by 2020.

Other similar projects are ongoing in both international and local levels. Botanic Gardens Conservation International offers volunteer opportunities for the public and accepts donations as well. There are presently several seed banks in the United States. The Berry Botanic Garden, The National Center for Genetic Resources PreservationRancho Santa Ana in California, Holden Arboretum located in Ohio, Desert Botanical Garden located in Arizona, and the Center for Urban Horticulture located in Washington have seed banking programs.

How You Can Help Save Seeds of The Future

You can participate in the Millennium Seed Bank Project by either adopting a seed for £25 or save a species for £1,000. A little pricey, but the project needs all the funds it can raise to achieve its monumental goal on schedule. You can become a member, a volunteer, or a partner in most of the programs (Botanic Gardens, Desert Botanical Gardens, Holden Arboretum, BGCI). Alternatively, you can also donate to support the projects.

Nobody knows which one of these plants hold the cure for cancer, AIDS, Parkinson’s, and other diseases. With each one that we lose, the world becomes a little less richer. Our flora species need to be protected from extinction – if not for biodiversity’s sake, then for ours.


Photo Credit: Some rights reserved by angela7dreams via Flickr.

Estel M.
About Estel M. (339 Posts)

Estel Grace Masangkay is a creative writer who enjoys outdoor trips and nature activities. She is passionate about sustainability and environment conservation. Follow Me @Em23me.

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