Ensuring the survival of endangered plants in the Mediterranean - Mediterranean Seed Conservation Partnership (MAVA Project)
The Mediterranean Basin is one of the world's most bio-diverse regions with 25,000 different plant species. The region has been classified as one of the world's 25 biodiversity hotspots. It contains almost one in ten of all known flowering plants on Earth, of which over half are found nowhere else in the world.
Paeonia cambessedesii in the wild (Photographer Wolfgang Stuppy)
The region's flora however is critically threatened from human development and requires urgent protection. The Mediterranean Basin is recognised as amongst the four most significantly altered biodiversity hotspots on the planet. Less than 5% of the hotspot is protected in nature reserves, leaving the majority of plant species unprotected.
Even with an increase in legal protection, the region's plant species will remain vulnerable to changes in climate, extreme weather events, invasive alien species and other impacts that require proactive management. It is necessary therefore to complement in-situ conservation action through ex-situ techniques, such as seed banking and habitat restoration, to safeguard the region's flora.
About the project
The “Ensuring the survival of endangered plants in the Mediterranean” project is mainly funded by the MAVA Foundation with the support of other co-funders like University of Cagliari (Sardinia), Govern de les Iles Balears, Fondo Europeo de Desarrollo Regional and Obra Social sa Nostra (Balearic Islands), and is an initiative led by seven conservation organisations:
- Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, London, United Kingdom (“the Project Co-ordinator”)
- Jardí Botánic de Sóller, Sóller, Malloca, Spain
- Mediterranean Agronomic Institute Chania, Chania, Crete, Greece
- Conservatoire Botanique National de la Corse, Corte, Corsica, France
- The Agricultural Research Institute, Nicosia, Cyprus
- Centro Conservazione Biodiversitá, Department of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Cagliari, Cagliari, Sardinia, Italy
- Dipartimento di Scienze Biologiche, Geologiche e Ambientali, University of Catania, Catania, Sicily, Italy
The first phase of the project is running over three years with the participation of seven conservation organisations, six of them based on the main Mediterranean islands (Sicily, Sardinia, Cyprus, Corsica, Crete and Mallorca). They will work together to achieve ex situ conservation of 900 plant taxa through seed conservation. Seeds will be collected from the priority plant taxa on each of the islands represented. Research will be carried out on these priority species and data will be disseminated to aid conservation and restoration activities. Alongside collecting, a Mediterranean Basin Island seed conservation network will be built to foster cooperation, collaboration and to promote the exchange of experience and ideas.
The project goal is to ensure the survival of threatened plant species in the Mediterranean Basin through ex-situ conservation measure and the project objectives are:
- To intensify seed conservation collaboration across the Mediterranean Basin
- To develop and implement a Mediterranean Basin seed collecting plan that prioritises critically endangered species
- To conserve 900 plant taxa that are prioritised for urgent conservation in the collecting plan through seed banking
- To research and disseminate data on the 900 plant taxa collected for conservation and restoration activities
- To improve the skills and knowledge base of conservation staff on Mediterranean islands
The activities in the project are structured into the following major areas:
Development of a Mediterranean Basin collecting plan
Collection planning follows the model developed by the European Native Seed Conservation Network (ENSCONET). In a multi-step process, the partners prioritise species by ranking on the basis of, for example, endemicity and threat level, then identify and select populations for collection. Data deficient species are identified and the network drafts a scientific plan for discovering and monitoring populations of these species.
Implementation of the collecting plan
Collection of high quality seed material and associated data from 900 plant taxa is carried out over three collecting seasons. Seed collection follows national and international regulations and standards.
Seed curation and storage
Seed collections are stored in local seed bank facilities and backed up at a second facility. Germination tests are carried out to assess the viability of the material and to ensure regeneration is possible. Data from the research, including germination protocols, where national and international law permits, are publically available online in the European Native Seed Conservation Network database.
Training is provided through fieldwork to staff and students. Joint trips provide a platform for informal training and exchange of experience and skills. Higher-level training is also part of the project. Research projects may include elements of research into reproductive biology, germination, and or conservation monitoring and management of Mediterranean threatened plant species.
Visit the project website Ensuring the survival of endangered plants in the Mediterranean
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