Kew's Millennium Seed Bank partnership – Kyrgyzstan
Over-exploitation and habitat loss are just two of the factors putting plant species at risk in Kyrgyzstan. Our aim in collecting and storing the seeds of threatened plants is to provide an insurance policy against their extinction in the wild.
Participants of the Seed Collecting training course held in Bishkek in August 2009 (Image: Vanessa Bertenshaw, RBG Kew)
Over 400 seed collections from Kyrgyzstan have been banked, and we have provided technical support to the seed bank at the Institute of Biotechnology. In August 2009 we ran a seed collecting and processing course for staff from a range of botanical institutes in Kyrgyzstan, with a view to developing a seed collecting network.Claire Trivedi, International Co-ordinator, Kew's MSBP
Plant life in Kyrgyzstan is under threat
Kyrgyzstan is home to 2% of the flora of the world. This includes about 4,100 higher plant species (plants which have a particular tissue structure that helps circulate resources such as water and minerals).
Of these, 139 are endemic (plants found exclusively in Kyrgyzstan) and many more near-endemic. Approximately 400 species have been identified as rare and threatened in the 1998 Red Data Book of Kyrgyzstan.
Kyrgyzstan is well known throughout Central Asia for the variety of valuable medicinal herbs that are found (around 200 species) but altogether about 1,600 species have use values including fodder (450 species), honey production (300 species) and food (50 species).
These known uses place species at risk of over-collection, in particular those with great ornamental value such as the beautiful wild tulip (Tulipa greigii). Other pressures on the flora include a shift from nomadic cattle rearing to intensive agriculture, and other land use changes such as mining, construction, road-building and deforestation.
Many species are particularly sensitive because they occupy very narrow habitat types and are sometimes endemic to very small areas.
Environment and climate
At the heart of central Asia, Kyrgyzstan is a landlocked country surrounded by Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and China. Although Kyrgyzstan is only the size of Great Britain, it holds great floristic wealth.
Over 90% of Kyrgyzstan is mountainous which provides a wide variety of habitats from temperate grassland, high mountain meadows, conifer forest and cold steppe.
Saving seeds for the future in Kyrgyzstan
Since 2004 scientists at Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank have been providing advice to the fledgling seed bank at The Institute of Biotechnology of the Academy of Sciences of the Kyrgyz Republic.
The Institute of Biotechnology has sent over 400 seed collections to Kew's Millennium Seed Bank, located at Wakehurst Place for safe keeping. Seed collections have been studied in Kyrgyzstan with the aim of identifying potential future uses of plant species, in particular their medicinal properties. It is hoped that research collaborations can be established across Kew’s science departments to foster these studies.
Kew has supported the Institute of Biotechnology and its sister Institute of Biology and Pedology to continue fieldwork, and further develop the skills and facilities in-country.
Discover more about our work in China and Central Asia...
Our team in Kyrgyzstan
- Clare Trivedi, International Co-ordinator
Our partners in Kyrgyzstan
- Institute of Biology and Pedology of the Academy of Sciences of the Kyrgyz Republic
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