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Smith, Paul P.

Photo of Paul Smith
Job title: 

Head of Seed Conservation Department & Millennium Seed Bank

Seed Conservation
Joined Kew: 


Foreign languages: 


Qualifications and appointments: 
  • BSc (Hons), Microbiology, Univ. Kent, 1986
  • PhD, Univ. Kent, 1991.
  • International Editor, Oryx
  • Board member, Trapnell Fund for Environmental Research in Africa, University of Oxford.
  • Board member, Bentham Moxon Trust

Management of the Seed Conservation Department and Millennium Seed Bank Partnership
The largest plant conservation project of its kind, RBG Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank Partnership (MSBP) has collected and conserved seeds from 10% of the world’s wild plant species. By 2020 this will be increased to one in four (25%) of the world’s species, and the use of a wide range of plant diversity will be enabled through habitat restoration and livelihoods programmes. The partnership currently comprises >120 partner institutions in >50 countries worldwide. Collecting activities are mainly concentrated in arid lands, mountain habitats, islands and coastal ecosystems. Threatened, rare and economically important species are targeted as a priority. Key countries in the partnership are: South Africa, Madagascar, Kenya, Mexico, Chile, Brazil, USA, Australia and China. My work as Head of Department and Programme Leader means that I am responsible for managing and leading all aspects of the MSBP, including the delivery of our challenging seed intake and other targets. I am responsible for ca. 60 people at the seed bank and indirectly for hundreds of other people around the world who work on the programme.

Plant ecology and seed conservation in southern, central and eastern Africa.
I am a plant ecologist engaged in botanical inventory (plant collection and naming), ecological survey (vegetation and soil ground studies), vegetation mapping (photo-interpretation from aerial photography, satellite imagery), environmental impact assessment (studies carried out in Tanzania, Zambia and Madagascar), vegetation monitoring (long term studies set up in mopane and miombo woodland in Zambia), park planning (co-author of management plan for Zambia’s North Luangwa National Park), ecotourism (involvement in the ecotourism industry for >10 years) and generalist plant identification (southern, central and east Africa). More recently (2000-2005) concentrating on seed-collecting in southern Africa, and co-ordination and participation in seed-collecting activities for the Millennium Seed Bank Project in South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Malawi and Madagascar. Also published a field guide to the miombo woodlands of south-central Africa, a vegetation atlas for Madagascar and have carried out botanical survey work in Botswana, Madagascar and Zambia.

Selected publications: 

Smith, P.P., Dickie, J., Linington, S., Probert, R. & Way, M. (2011). Making the case for plant diversity. Seed Science Research 21: 1-4.

Moat, J. & Smith, P.P. (2007) (eds). The vegetation atlas of Madagascar. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Smith, P.P. & Allen, Q. (2004) Field Guide to the Trees and Shrubs of the Miombo Woodlands. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, London.

Lowry, P.P. II & Smith P.P. (2003). Closing the gulf between botanists and conservationists. Conservation Biology 17 (4): 1175-1176.

Smith, P.P. (2001). Ecological Survey of Zambia: the traverse records of C.G. Trapnell 1932-1942. Two volumes + 2 maps & memoir. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, London.