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Ex situ Conservation of Plant Germplasm from Arid and Semi-Arid Zones of Mexico

Seed collecting and banking; capacity building and applied research on plant germplasm from arid and semi-arid zones of Mexico

Approximately 100 million hectares (20%) of Mexican territory are classified as Arid and Semi-Arid Land (ASAL). The Mexican ASAL include the sites of origin, development and diversification of a large number of plant species. Many of these habitats are at risk due to human development pressure. Approximately 67% of the Mexican ASAL have been drastically altered by human activities.

The aims of the Project are:

  • The enhancement of ex situ and in situ conservation and sustainable utilisation of plant germplasm indigenous to Mexican ASAL; and
  • Capacity building to include the enhancement of technical and scientific resources nationally and the exchange of information in support of institutional strengthening and biodiversity conservation.

Project aims are met through regular seed collecting expeditions in central dryland Mexico, supported by capacity-building of staff and infrastructure, as well as research on plant eco-physiology.

Priority plants include endemics and species useful at the village level. Seed processing, germination testing and banking at FESI-UNAM and MSB is undertaken with support of Mexico’s National Commission for the Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity (CONABIO) within a three-year subproject.

Enhancements are being made to the BIOTICA information system (CONABIO’s database) to handle seed bank collection data.

Notable infrastructure improvements have been the development of a seed drying chamber and a greenhouse, which enable successful processing, research and propagation of target species.

Three seed collecting field guides, compiling information on targeted species and their actual and potential distribution have been produced to support the collecting programme.

Through the MSBP, Kew has funded the activities so far with complementary funds from CONABIO, and significant in kind contributions from FESI-UNAM and local partners.

In total, the partnership has successfully completed ex situ conservation activities in the arid and semi-arid zones of Mexico with 1,900 native (IR) species collections being banked so far in country and duplicated in Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank.

The ex situ conservation programme aims to expand to other areas of drylands of Mexico, including Baja California, where some preliminary field expeditions have already been carried out. Seed/Fruit morphology training, research on the seed longevity of Cacti species and the enhancement of the facilities with priority equipment are also encompassed in future plans.

Key papers published since 2006

  • Flores, J., Jurado, E., Chapa-Vargas, L., Ceroni-Stuva, A., Dávila-Aranda, P., Galíndez, G., Gurvich, D., León-Lobos, P., Ordóñez, C., Ortega-Baes, P., Ramírez-Bullón, N., Sandoval, A., Seal, C.E., Ulian, T., Pritchard, H.W. (2011). Seeds photoblastism and its relationship with some plant traits in 136 cacti taxa. Environmental and Experimental Botany 71 (1): 79-88.
  • León-Lobos P, Way M., Davila-Aranda P., Lima-Junior M. (2011). The role of seed banks in the conservation of plant diversity and in ecological restoration in Latin America. Plant Ecology & Diversity. Accepted.

Project partners and collaborators


Facultad de Estudios Superiores Iztacala, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (FESI-UNAM)

Project funders


National Commission for the Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity (CONABIO)


Millennium Commission

Annex material

Conferences and workshops

2010 Latin American Botanical Congress, La Serena, Chile. Round table on the role of seed banks in support of plant conservation & habitat restoration in Latin America & Caribbean.