Kew's Millennium Seed Bank partnership - Slovakia
Kew's Millennium Seed Bank partnership with Slovakia is helping to conserve threatened species across three bio-geographic regions.
ENSCONET field trip to Slovakia 2011
Plant life in Slovakia is under threat
Although a relatively small country, Slovakia possesses a surprising richness in biodiversity. Biodiversity is the diversity of life on Earth, including every plant, animal and micro-organism.
Highlights of Slovakian biodiversity include a number of endemic plant species found only in the Carpathian mountains of Slovakia, such as tatra chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra subsp. tatrica) or tatra marmot (Marmota marmota subsp. latirostris). Amongst its patchwork of woodland and meadows, Slovakia is also home to one of the richest areas in Europe for insects.
Overall, approximately 3,350 taxa of ferns and flowering plants are currently known from Slovakia. A taxon (plural taxa), is a group of living things at a particular level of classification, for example a species, family or class. Out of these taxa, 124 plant species are considered critically endangered, 273 are endangered and 350 are vulnerable.
Almost 15% (488) of the 3,350 taxa of ferns and flowering plant species known from Slovakia have been reported as endemic and more than 6% (220) of them can be found only in the Carpathian mountain region. Overall 779 endemic or threatened plant taxa are protected by law.
The main threats to Slovakian plant species and their habitats are driven by human activities, including over-exploitation of plant species, urban development, pollution, climate change and, in particular, conversion of species-rich meadows and pastures into intensively managed grasslands. As a result of drainage, dams, agricultural runoff and industrial pollution, the most endangered habitats in Slovakia are aquatic and wetland ecosystems.
The critically endangered marsh gladiolus (Gladiolus palustris) once thrived in the Slovakian wetland meadows but now remains in one nature reserve. Similarly the yellow flowered endemic turna golden drop (Onosma tornensis) and sweetly scented muran daphne (Daphne arbuscula) have also declined in number and are now critically endangered.
Biogeographic regions in Slovakia
Biogeography is the study of the distribution of biodiversity in different locations, over time. It aims to reveal where organisms live, and at what quantity. One reason that the diversity of plant life in Slovakia is interesting is because three areas, distinctly different in their landscape, geology and subsequent biodiversity meet within the country's borders. These regions are the Alpine, Continental and Pannonian.
The Alpine regions are high mountains with high light levels and large fluctuations in temperature. The Continental areas are mostly forests and peatlands in the northern part of country. In Slovakia the Pannonian region consists mainly of dry lowlands with stepe grasslands as well as wetlands important for migrating birds.
The Western part of the Carpathian Mountains, which belong to the Alpine biogeographic region, is the most species rich area of Slovakia. The influence of the Pannonian biogeographic region is apparent only in the southernmost part of Slovakia, where many Pannonian endemic plant species reach their northernmost distribution point. Populations of these species may be particularly vulnerable to climate change as the lack of suitable habitat prevents them from colonising north.
Almost 10% of the Slovak flora is already banked and saved for the next generations and available for environmental restoration, or for reintroduction programmes.Prof. Karol Marhold, Institute of Botany, Slovak Academy of Science
Saving seeds for the future in Slovakia
Because of its rich plant diversity, and the number of plant species identified as under threat, Kew's Millennium Seed Bank partnership is working with Slovakia to help save plant life at risk. A Memorandum of Collaboration between the Kew and the Institute of Botany, Slovak Academy of Sciences was signed in December 2006, demonstrating our commitment.
Our collecting programme covers the whole of Slovakia and we focus our activity on protecting plant species that are unique to this region, or endangered as a result of human impact and activity.
During the last four collecting seasons, seed collectors from the Institute of Botany have saved the seeds of 411 plant species, out of which 60 are identified as endangered, 58 as vulnerable and 65 as critically endangered.
Thirty one of the collected taxa are unique to the Carpathians, and twelve plant species are only found in the Pannonian region. All seed collections are currently stored at Kew's Millennium Seed Bank, located at Wakehurst Place, as well as in the Gene Bank of the Slovak Republic in Piešťany.
ENSCONET Collecting trip
During 2011 a joint ENSCONET field trip was made in Slovakia. To find out more about the Slovakian field trip visit the ENSCONET Slovakia Field Trip Image Gallery.
Get involved - Adopt a Seed, Save a Species
We have successfully banked 10% of the world's wild plant species and we have set our sights on saving 25% by 2020.
Without plants there could be no life on earth, and yet every day another four plant species face extinction. Too often when we hear these kind of statistics there is little that we can do as individuals, but thanks to Kew's Millennium Seed Bank partnership and the Adopt a Seed, Save a Species campaign there is something that you can do to ensure the survival of a plant species.
Discover more about our work across Europe...
Our Slovakian team
- Clare Trivedi, International Co-ordinator
- Jonas Mueller, International Co-ordinator
- Ruth Eastwood, Partnership Assistant
Our partners in Slovakia
Keep up to date with events and news from Kew