Ensuring the survival of endangered plants in the Mediterranean - Mediterranean Seed Conservation Partnership (MAVA Project)
The Mediterranean Basin is one of the world’s 25 biodiversity hotspots with 25,000 species of plants – of which over half are found nowhere else in the world. Four out of five European endemics are Mediterranean with many of these restricted to individual islands. Pressures from urbanisation, mass tourism and intensive agriculture in the region have pushed many native plants to the edge of extinction. Climate change threatens to accelerate this loss. Nowhere are these threats more prominent than on islands where constraints of space, resource scarcity and marine influences, including rising sea levels, are exacerbated by habitat destruction, pollution and alien invasives.
The first phase of the 'Ensuring the survival of endangered plants in the Mediterranean' project run for three years between October 2011 and September 2014 with the participation of seven conservation organisations, six of them based on the main Mediterranean islands (Sicily, Sardinia, Cyprus, Corsica, Crete and Mallorca). Seeds have been collected from mainly endemic, rare, threatened or protected taxa, stored on the six islands and backed up at the Millennium Seed Bank. This has resulted in the protection of over 900 endangered plant taxa. Germination tests continue to be carried out to assess the viability of the seed material. Data from this research is available to aid conservation and restoration activities.
The project has enabled a network of seed conservationists in the Mediterranean Basin to be developed. This has improved local conservation initiatives, built relationships and facilitated local conservation initiative. A programme of joint seed collecting trips has forged relationships as well as improved local knowledge about the ecology and taxonomy of the flora of all six Mediterranean islands. The project has also included higher level training with MSc and PhD support as well as a number of publications.
Project partners and collaborators
The Agricultural Research Institute Nicosia
Conservatoire Botanique National de Corse, Corte, Corsica
Mediterranean Agronomic Institute, Chania, Crete
Centro Conservazione Biodiversità, Department of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Cagliari, Sardinia
Dipartimento di Scienze Biologiche, Geologiche e Ambientali, University of Catania, Catania, Sicily
Jardí Botànic de Sóller, Mallorca