The future of Kew's Millennium Seed Bank partnership
Kew's Millennium Seed Bank has the capacity to store all of the world’s rare, threatened and useful plant species. It is the largest wild plant seed bank in the world and in 2010 the MSB and its partners in more than 50 countries achieved their first major milestone of collecting and conserving seeds from 10% of the world’s plants.
Kew's Millennium Seed Bank at Wakehurst Place
The need for large-scale wild seed banking is evident. Now, in the face of increasing threats to plants from clearing of primary vegetation, over-exploitation, climate change and a burgeoning human population, we urgently need to scale up our activities.
What's next for Kew's Millennium Seed Bank partnership
By 2020, Kew's Millennium Seed Bank will be building upon its current global partnership to save 25% of the world’s species (nominally 75,000 species).
Collection programmes are prioritising species from mountain, dryland, coastal and island environments. Research shows that these ecosystems are the most vulnerable to climate change.
More importantly, we will put these species to use in developing innovative, plant-based solutions to the major environmental challenges that we all face - food security, water scarcity, deforestation, energy and climate change. New plant species will need to be used and new crop varieties will need to be developed. These will include drought resistant crop and forage species that sustain the world’s poorest communities; salt tolerant and desert pioneer species that combat desertification; and photosynthetically efficient and energy-rich plants with potential as biofuels.
Building our knowledge and sharing expertise
Scientists from Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank Partnership will continue to carry out research that will enable us to select, store, germinate and use as many plant species as possible.
We are working with forestry departments in 12 African countries to increase the number of tree species used in the landscape. African forestry is currently dominated by exotic species such as Eucalyptus and Pinus even though, in many situations, indigenous species are more suitable. The MSB is working with our partners to improve seed availability and knowledge for catchment restoration, agroforestry and utility forestry. The biggest programme we are involved with is the pan-African Great Green Wall Project which aims to halt the advance of the Sahara Desert through planting well-adapted tree species selected by local communities. The MSB’s knowledge is being used to remove technical impediments such as poor germination and establishment.
Our Useful Plants Project has taken our work with communities even further. In this project, now active in eight countries, we are training communities to grow useful plant species in local nurseries for income generation and sustainable development. Examples include pesticidal plants for organic cotton growers, indigenous fruit trees, medicinal plants, and fast growing timber species.
Restoring habitats worldwide
An important and growing area of research at Kew is restoration ecology.
Kew's Millennium Seed Bank Partnership is actively involved in re-introducing threatened plants back into the wild.
Examples of species reintroductions include:
• Reintroduction of strapwort, star fruit and triangular club rush in the UK
• Reintroduction of 15 sandplain fynbos species in South Africa, including species previously extinct in the wild
• Reintroduction of Banksia brownii and Nematolepis wilsonii in Australia
• Restoration of mined lands in Madagascar
We are currently in the process of establishing a UK Native Seed Hub at the MSB that will supply well-provenanced, high quality seeds to the UK native seed industry and other users. We will also be increasingly involved in habitat restoration initiatives in challenging habitats like tropical forests and deserts.
Leading projects like this make us one the most ambitious ex situ conservation programmes in the world. They also give us all cause for optimism for the future. The problems posed by climate change and other human impacts on plant diversity are surmountable, and Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank Partnership is leading the effort.
How you can help...
Plants are under threat in today's world. If we continue on our current path, we will lose a species a day for the next 50 years.
By making a donation to Kew's Millennium Seed Bank partnership, you can help one of the largest and most ambitious conservation projects in the world make a real difference. Find out how your donation can make a difference.
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