Seed Conservation in the UK Overseas Territories
Supporting partners in the UK Overseas Territories in collecting seeds of priority plant species for ex situ conservation at the Millennium Seed Bank.
Collecting seeds of Sporobolus caespitosus on Ascension
(Image: Thomas Heller)
The UK Overseas Territories, with their diverse climates and geography, are home to the majority of the biodiversity of the UK, with a high level of endemism (at least 180 endemic species of plants). Many of their habitats are under great pressure for development, with invasive species and climate change also representing serious threats to the natural heritage of these places.
Banking of seeds in ex situ collections forms an important complement to other plant conservation activities (in situ and ex situ) underway in the UKOTs. With 96% of the flora of the UK mainland conserved in the MSB, banking the flora of Overseas Territories is a natural extension of this work.
As part of the Millennium Seed Bank Project, Kew has provided support in the form of seed collecting training to members of partner organizations (including Government, NGOs and volunteers), equipment (e.g. collecting bags, silica gel drying drums, hygrometers), facilitating shipping of material to the UK, as well as directly supporting dedicated seed collector positions in the Turks and Caicos Islands, Falkland Islands and the Cayman Islands.
In St Helena, the building of capacity in seed conservation techniques has also been of direct benefit to local species recovery activities (see ‘Supporting Critical Species Recovery and Horticultural Needs on St Helena’; seeds of two endemic species (Wahlenbergia linifolia and Mellissia begoniifolia) have also been repatriated for propagation. Meanwhile, in the Falkland Islands, samples of seed banked at the MSB have been repatriated for propagation in a local native plants nursery (see ‘Native Plants Programme’), as well as being used in trial plots in the restoration of cleared minefields.
To date, 564 collections from the UKOTs have been banked at the MSB, representing 380 plant taxa. Seventy of these are endemic to the UKOTs. These include:
• 109 species from the Falkland Islands, about two-thirds of the native seed-bearing flora, including 12 of the 13 known endemic species
• 156 species from the Turks and Caicos Islands, including five of their nine endemic taxa
• all 7 species endemic to Bermuda
• 27 of 45 species endemic to Saint Helena
• a collection of Abutilon pitcairnense, a species now extinct in the wild in Pitcairn
• collections from Tristan da Cunha, Ascension Island, Cayman Islands, Montserrat, South Georgia, British Antarctic Territory, Gibraltar and the British Virgin Islands.
Targeting of priority species for collection continues across many of the Overseas Territories.
Clubbe, C. & Hamilton, M., & Corcoran, M. (2010). Using the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation to Guide Conservation Implementation in the UK Overseas Territories. Kew Bulletin 65: 509-717.
Project partners and collaborators
Conservation Department, Ascension Island Government
Department of Conservation Services, Government of Bermuda
BVI National Parks Trust
Department of the Environment, Government of the Cayman Islands
Blue Iguana Recovery Program
Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park
Environmental Planning Department, Falkland Islands Government
Ministry of Agriculture, Trade, Land, Housing and the Environment, Government of Montserrat
Government of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Isles
Agriculture and Natural Resources Department, Government of St Helena
St Helena National Trust
Conservation Department, Government of Tristan da Cunha
Department for the Environment and Coastal Resource, Government of TCI
Turks & Caicos National Trust
Millennium Seed Bank Project