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Restoring global habitats

Restoring damaged habitats is becoming ever more important. The loss of ecosystem services from degraded habitats is a significant barrier to achieving international goals to reduce poverty, hunger and disease.
Machines mining for Bauxite in Australia
Through its Western Australian partners, the MSB is working with the ALCOA mining company in Australia. The photograph shows original forest behind current strip-mining activity for Bauxite (aluminium ore).

Seed banks support habitat restoration in many ways. Seed collections are used directly in restoration projects. Seed scientists also provide advice and technical assistance in identifying and monitoring important plant populations and collecting and germinating seeds.

SeedQuest in New South Wales, Australia

SeedQuest NSW is Kew's Millennium Seed Bank partnership project in New South Wales (NSW), Australia. The New South Wales seed bank collection has provided seeds from 20 plant species to help the revegetation of the Capertee Valley area.

This activity is part of the national Regent Honeyeater Recovery Program which is helping to save one of the most endangered bird species in Australia. Our revegetation project is introducing species of trees favoured as food by the bird.

The regent honeyeater (Xanthomyza phrygia) is the most endangered species of honeyeater in Australia, with only 1000-1500 individuals remaining. The Capertee Valley is the most important breeding location for this bird. Mugga ironbark (Eucalyptus sideroxylon), yellow box (E. melliodora), white box (E.albens) and river oak (Casuarina cunninghamiana) are important sources of nectar for the regent honeyeater.

Saving seeds in Madagascar

In Madagascar Kew's Millennium Seed Bank partnership is working with Rio Tinto QMM. Our project is helping Rio Tinto QMM to store seed from priority tree species found in the littoral forests within a titanium dioxide mining site. We also provide information on the germination and propagation needs of different plant species.

The forest, home to at least 50 local endemic plants, is threatened by charcoal makers and logging. These 50 plant species cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Madagascar is one of the world's poorest countries. QMM have collected seeds from priority plant species and are storing them in their own medium-term seed bank on site. Back-up collections are being held by Silo National des Graines Forestieres (SNGF) and Kew's Millennium Seed Bank at Wakehurst Place for long term conservation, ensuring these plant species are saved for the future.

Restoring natural areas at Kenilworth race course in Cape Town, South Africa

In the Republic of South Africa, Kew's Millennium Seed Bank partnership supported the restoration of the natural areas at Kenilworth race course in Cape Town. The central area of the racecourse contains some of the few remaining remnants of Sand Plain Fynbos vegetation in the Cape Town metropolitan area.

There are 331 plant species found at Kenilworth race course, including six plant species which grow nowhere else in the world. Our efforts are helping to secure the future of these threatened plant species.

Conservation of Spiked Rampion in East Sussex

Spiked Rampion (Phyteuma spicatum) is a rare, long-lived herbaceous perennial, found in the UK in damp, acidic soils along streams, verges and in coppiced woodland. A general decrease of woodland management practices and scrub encroachment is contributing to the decline of plants by increasing shade of which it is intolerant. It is now only found at nine sites in East Sussex and the total wild population in Britain is less than 300 plants. It has been assigned the conservation status of Endangered, with a high risk of local extinction. Attempts to conserve and restore the species are further complicated by a lack of seed, complex dormancy mechanisms which prevent germination, and the grazing of young seedlings by slugs and snails.

The UK Native Seed Hub is working with a group of conservation organisations and landowners led by the Species Recovery Trust to expand existing populations and reintroduce the species to sites where it has been lost. Seed collections have been secured at the Millennium Seed Bank from existing wild populations and management work has been carried out at all eight sites to recreate the optimum conditions for plants. Experiments have succeeded in breaking dormancy, with the first mature plants flowering at Wakehurst last summer. Having developed reliable propagation and establishment methods, plants for reintroduction and genetically-diverse seed will now be grown at the UKNSH.

Kew’s expertise in seed conservation, horticulture and restoration supports the ongoing work of many partner organisations in the UK including Plantlife, Sussex Wildlife Trust, Natural England, Forestry Commission, Species Recovery Trust and private landowners. Plant conservation is most effective and ultimately sustainable through working in partnership with others.

Seeds of Success in the USA

Our Seeds of Success Program aims to increase the number of species and the amount of native seed available for use in stabilising, rehabilitation and restoration of lands in the USA.

Our partners target collecting at the ecoregion level. In Chicago, we are aiming to collect all species characteristic of the central tallgrass prairie. The tallgrass prairie is one of the world's most threatened habitats, having been reduced to less than 0.01% of its former range. Our work is vital to protect the future of this area.

Scientific Research and Data