Kew's Millennium Seed Bank partnership – Chile
Seed banks provide an insurance policy against the loss of plants in the wild and provide options for their future use. Seed banking is vital as part of our conservation efforts in Chile where several plant species found nowhere else are on the brink of extinction.
Aa nervosa: orchid found in Parinacota at 5000 m (Image: Tiziana Ulian, RBG Kew)
Our achievements in Chile
- 600 plant species from Chile have been saved via the MSBP and helped to meet our 10% target
- INIA’s seed bank is central to the research and use of seeds for conservation and restoration in the region
- the regional government of La Serena have committed to develop a botanical garden on the outskirts of the city. Our partners in Chile have offered native seeds and botanical advice.
Plant life is under threat in Chile
Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank partnership in Chile is concerned with collecting and banking the seeds of rare and threatened plant species. The main threats to plants are man-made including changes to the use of land for agricultural purposes and residential development.
Environment and climate
The Chilean flora is diverse (over 5200 native species), unique (around 50% of these are endemic to Chile), and widely used in horticulture. This is due to the extraordinary range of environments, including the Atacama desert, mediterranean climate zone, and Patagonian forests, combined with the isolation of the Chilean flora resulting from the uplift of the Andean mountain chain.
Saving seeds for the future in Chile
Kew has partnered with the Agricultural Research Institute of Chile (INIA) to bank the precious flora of Chile’s desert and mediterranean regions. The project, Ex situ Conservation of Endemic, Endangered and Vulnerable Plant Species from the Arid Lands of Chile, is based at the Agriculture Research Institute of Chile base seed bank, near La Serena in Chile’s Coquimbo region.
Scientists from Kew are sharing their expertise in seed conservation with partners in Chile to help build local seed banking capability. All the seed banking processes in this project are being carried out in Chile.
Species are prioritised according to their uniqueness and distribution. A small team of botanists and ecologists are undertaking collecting expeditions targeting the rarest and most threatened plants from the north of Chile. Kew's species targeting team have developed procedures for the analysis of herbarium specimens that the team in Chile is using to ensure that data collected is of high value.
Seed collections and herbarium vouchers are returned to the INIA base bank for processing, long term conservation, and research. Seeds are duplicated at Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank at Wakehurst Place under the terms of an Access and Benefit Sharing Agreement (ABSA) signed by the the Agriculture Research Institute of Chile and Kew in 2001, and renewed in August 2006.
As a result of generous support from Rio Tinto plc, five particularly threatened species that do not produce sufficient seed for effective seed banking, have been studied in a linked project, the Ex situ Conservation of Threatened Chilean Flora Through Propagation. Pollination studies and propagation trials will be used as a basis for restoration and re-introduction efforts if required in the future, and these techniques are now being used on a wider range of threatened species.
Our team in Chile
- Michael Way, International Coordinator (Americas)
Our partners and collaborators
- The Agricultural Research Institute of Chile (INIA)
- University of Concepción - Herbarium personnel kindly provided INIA with botanical data to help identify and locate target species
- National Botanic Garden of Viña del Mar - personnel have made several seed collecting expeditions for the project, with a particular emphasis on orchids and other threatened taxa
- University of Talca - Botanic garden staff are making seed collections for the project
- Rio Tinto Exploration - Logistic support has been generously provided to assist two INIA collecting expeditions in the north of Chile. Printing and dissemination of the Spanish-language Seed Collecting Manual was also kindly supported
Plant stories from Chile
Scientific Research & Data
- Ex situ Conservation of Endemic, Endangered and Vulnerable Plant Species from the Arid Lands of Chile
- Ex situ Conservation of Threatened Chilean Flora Through Propagation
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