Preserving plant seeds and other genetic material justifies investments of hundreds of millions of dollars, as it is a lifeline for the future, scientists say.
“If the world ever ends, these collections will bring hope for a new beginning to life on Earth,” said Li Pei, staff member of the Wildlife Germplasm Bank, or GBOWS, in the statement. Yunnan province.
The rapid loss of biodiversity and genetic material resources is the main reason for the establishment of seed banks. There are now more than 1,750 such banks in the world, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
GBOWS, founded in 2007, is a research and preservation center for rare and endangered plants and animals. It is the only such comprehensive institution for the storage of plant and wildlife genetic resources in China and the largest in Asia in terms of species, Li said.
Affiliated with the Kunming Institute of Botany, which depends on the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the GBOWS includes a seed bank, a micropropagation unit, a plant DNA bank, a microbial bank based at the University of Yunnan and an animal genetic material bank at the Kunming Institute. of zoology. It also houses experimental research laboratories in plant genomics and seed biology.
GBOWS retained 85,046 seed accessions from 10,601 species, 24,100 tissue samples from 2,093 species, 65,456 DNA samples from 7,324 species, 22,800 strains from 2,280 microorganisms and 60,262 biological samples of 2,203 species of wild animals and breeds of domestic animals.
Yu Fuqiang, deputy director of the germplasm bank, said, “The bank functions as a biological dome that protects wild organisms, especially endangered species or species of high economic and scientific value from extinction.
In China, areas of high biodiversity range from the dry northwest to the tropical and subtropical south. Remote mountainous areas and diverse microclimates have resulted in high levels of endemism, the condition of being endemic or a geographic distribution restricted to one area or region.
The seed bank has retained 36% of the seed plants in China, Li Pei said. With two in five plant species threatened with extinction, she said, it is a race against time to protect the country’s incredible flora.
“We store the seeds that are collected from nature so that we can germinate and reintroduce these plants into the wild or use them for scientific research to find our future food and medicine, and for other functions,” said Li.
For example, the seeds of Silene stenophylla, a plant species in the carpet weed family, can maintain its viability for up to 32,000 years.
Seed collection is the first step in preservation, and GBOWS is working on this with national partners who receive regular training from the seed bank.
Apart from seeds, collectors take specimens for verification. They record the details of the plant, including where it was found, its size, and the number of individual plants in the habitat. Once at the bank, the seeds go through a series of processes before they can be stored for long term.
In addition to working with 105 research institutes and preservation centers nationwide, the seed bank works with international partners, including Kew Gardens in the UK, on safeguarding specimen collection, exchange and research. . It contains 2,176 seed sets from 45 countries, each set containing thousands of individual seeds.
Previously posted on Chinadaily.com.cn