Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Seed Seekers

'The Seed Seekers' is the title of an article from the recent Australian Geographic Magazine (April-June 2010) which was placed in my hands by a thoughtful friend in Melbourne this week.

Article on seedbanks from Australian Geographic
To read more from this article go to this web journal post at Australian Geographic.

The journey of a seed ends in the cold room at the Millennium Seed Bank in sourthern England. (Photo: Richard Weinstein)
The journey of a seed ends in the cold room at the Millennium Seed Bank in sourthern England. (Photo: Richard Weinstein)
from the article:

Seed banking involves collecting and storing seed from plants. It is both an insurance policy against extinction and a source of high-quality material for the restoration of habitats. It's labour-intensive work but is cost effective - it is estimated an average of $5000 is needed to save a species from extinction. The NSW Seedbank ( the source of information for this article) received an injection of funds from the State Government in 1999 and a major boost from the MSB upon joining its program in 2003. More recently, HSBC Bank Australia became a major BGT supporter and part of its funding was directed to seed banking.

What's learnt in the seed-banking process also aids the understanding and management of species in the wild. So far, MSB has banked seeds from 10 per cent of the world's known wild plants, more than 24,000 species, including 12 now extinct in the wild. Its next target is to have saved seeds from 25 per cent of plant species by 2020. Roughly a quarter of all the world's plant species face the threat of extinction, but twice that number could be at risk should the average planetary temperature rise 2-3°C, as climate change experts predict. Of Australia's 25,000 species, 23 per cent are under threat. 

"For many years, we were concerned about seed banking because there was this concept of whether we had a gene bank or a gene morgue," says Dr Cathy Offord, manager of horticultural research at the BGT. She says the knowledge and techniques built up during the past decade have "enabled us to be confident to say that we can successfully collect the majority of species that grow in NSW". Still, some species continue to perplex. "There are still a lot of challenges," she says. "We could spend several lifetimes even on just one or two species."
 "Seed knowledge, I believe, is going to be quite critical over the next couple of decades. - Peter Cuneo, BGT's Seedbank manager.


Robyn said...

Wow this is fascinating.
Thanks for sharing and opening my mind to something that I haven't ever really given much consideration.

It's not even 8.30am and I've learned something new today :)

sophie munns said...

H Robyn,
... so pleased you got to read this as I do hope many in this country learn more about the situation that is presenting with seeds.
Science can be seen at times as threatening and problematic... bad news stories that circulate can make for assumptions that all projects are dubious.
I'm the first to admit I have much to learn ....but I do think that there is some very reliable information out there if one finds the right sources to read.
Like everything in life we have to take particular
steps to examine where the informations is coming from... who is funding the research and therefore if it is reliably objective or serving an interest group.

Thank you for your comment... enjoy your Sunday!

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