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MSB Seed Banking Worldwide

Today, 60,000 to 100,000 species of plant are faced with the threat of extinction. Plants provide the air we breathe, clean water and we all rely on plants for food. Kew's Millennium Seed Bank Partnership aims to save plants worldwide with a focus on plants most at risk and most useful for the future. Together with our partners in 80 countries worldwide, we have already successfully saved seeds from over 13% of the world's wild plant species. By 2020, our aim is to secure the safe storage of seed from 25% of the world’s bankable plants. We target plants and regions most at risk from climate change and the ever-increasing impact of human activities. We also save the seeds of the world's plant life faced with the threat of extinction, and those that could be of most use in the future. The seeds we save are banked at Kew's Millennium Seed Bank at Wakehurst, and in our partner seed banks around the world.
Low-cost seed drying equipment (Image: R. Davies, RBG Kew)

Why Kew saves seeds

Today, between 60,000 and 100,000 species of plant are faced with the threat of extinction – roughly a quarter of all plant species. Plants are dying out largely due to the activities of people. Clearing of primary vegetation, over-exploitation and climate change are all causing species losses. We need plants, because plants are useful. Plants provide the air we breathe, they provide clean water, fuel, building materials, fibres, resins and we all rely on plants for food. Plants also play a vital role in combating climate change. Plants maintain the atmosphere and counteract climate change by absorbing carbon dioxide, turning it into plant material. Kew’s projects are supporting plants in mitigating and adapting to our changing climate.

Plants hold potential for our future

We already know of thousands of plants that are useful to people, but many more have the potential to be useful in the future. Over 30,000 species of plant are edible, but we use only a tiny fraction of these in commercial agriculture. In the future we may well need a much greater range of species, particularly if climate change alters growing seasons or the world’s population continues to increase and we run out of prime agricultural land. Plants are also vital for medicine. About 70% of the world’s population relies on traditional plant remedies for medicine. Only one in five plant species have been screened for use in medicine. Cures for diseases could lie in many of these unscreened species. We can't afford to let these plants, and the potential they hold, die out. 

Kew's Millennium Seed Bank at Wakehurst

Kew's Millennium Seed Bank, which opened in 2000, is located at Wakehurst in West Sussex and is an integral part of the visitor experience, together with the Mansion and gardens. As well as providing space to store thousands of seed samples in a large underground vault, Kew's Millennium Seed Bank includes advanced seed research and processing facilities and a state of the art exhibition about seed conservation. 

Project Department

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