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Millennium Seed Bank China Programme

The MSB China Programme is one of the strategic regional seed conservation programmes within the MSB Partnership and makes a major contribution to the overall success of the MSB. It helped establish the largest wild plant conservation facility in Asia, the Germplasm Bank of Wild Species at the Kunming Institute of Botany, Yunnan.

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China Training Course 2011
Kate Gold, RBG Kew

Staff members of the Germplasm Bank of Wild Species, Kunming Institute of Botany, and participants of the International Training Course: Seed Conservation Techniques for Wild Plant Resources, January 2011, Kunming, Yunnan. Image: Kate Gold, RBG Kew.

A 10-year partnership agreement between Kew and the Chinese Academy of Sciences was signed in May 2004. Under this agreement, 4,000 threatened and endemic plant species from China were targeted and safeguarded at the Germplasm Bank of Wild Species (GBOWS), part of the Kunming Institute of Botany, by 2010. The GBOWS is managed by the Chinese Academy of Sciences with the aim of conserving China’s biodiversity and plant resources for sustainable use. The aim is to have 10,000 Chinese species banked for long-term storage by 2020. The MSB was providing technical support in the construction of the new building, and shared knowledge and experience in seed conservation methods and technologies.

The collaboration provides an excellent opportunity for UK and Chinese botanists to work together to collect and conserve China’s plant diversity through a range of scientific activities such as staff exchange, PhD co-supervision (‘Oak seed biology’, XIA Ke, and ‘Programmed cell death in seeds’, CHEN Hong-ying, both completed 2009), conservation skills training (e.g. training visits of KIB staff at MSB: DU Yan and ZHOU Bing 2008; LI Aihua and ZHANG Ting 2009; YANG Juan, HE Hua-jie and QIN Shao-fa 2011); and information sharing (electronic data transfer). In addition, KIB was a full member of the Darwin Initiative project ‘Orchid seed stores for sustainable use (OSSSU)’, 2007-2010. In spring 2010, KIB organised and hosted a HLAA Temperate Team field trip to northwest Yunnan.

Until now, more than 6,000 Chinese plant species have been banked at GBOWS. Germination tests have been carried out to assess the quality of the seed collections. Collections-based research helps to remove barriers to seed use and maximise storage potential. So far, 2030 collections have been duplicated at the MSB. One of KIB’s species, Musa itinerans, was selected as the MSB 10% species.

KIB contributed 264,000 seeds from 900 collections for the UK Pavilion at the World Expo in Shanghai, 2010. A jointly organised Seed Conservation Techniques course with 16 participants from 11 Asian countries was held in Kunming and Xishuanbanna in January 2011, hosted by KIB and co-funded by the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Several innovative, additional seed conservation projects and activities are planned:

  • The aim of the planned Forest Restoration programme in Yunnan province is to restore forest land in two nature reserves using seed material from 100 framework tree species A parallel forest restoration project will focus on the highly endemic vascular plant flora in the Daweishan mountain range close to the Vietnamese border.
  • Two bilingual, high quality field guides of wild flowers will be produced to be used as teaching materials for schools, naturalists, tourists and to raise awareness about the importance of wild plant diversity in China.
  • A permanent database connection between the collection databases of MSB and GBOWS will be developed and implemented, which will allow newly created collection data to be transferred between the two databases.

Project partners and collaborators

China

Kunming Institute of Botany, the Chinese Academy of Sciences

Project funders

China
  • The National Development and Reform Commission
  • The Ministry of Science and Technology
  • The Chinese Academy of Sciences
  • Yunnan government
UK
  • Millennium Commission