Kew's Millennium Seed Bank partnership – Falkland Islands
Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank partnership is participating in vital conservation work in the Falkland Islands. Plants are under threat from invasive species and land-use. By collecting and storing seeds we can safeguard endangered plant species for future generations.
Collecting seeds of the endemic Moore's plantain (Plantago moorei) in the Falkland Islands (Image: Thomas Heller, RBG Kew)
I found the seed collecting I took part in of great interest. Uninvolved bystanders also asked what we were doing and why. So the word reached a few more folk!Sally Blake, collecting volunteer, Falkland Islands
Plant life in the Falkland Islands is under threat
The flora of the Falkland Islands includes more than 160 native species of flowering plant, and though it has many affinities with that of temperate South America, 14 species are endemics (found exclusively on the islands).
These species face the threat of over-grazing, pasture improvement and the spread of invasive species such as gorse. Much of the vegetation is dwarf-shrub heath, with areas of vegetation protected from grazing on more isolated islets and in rocky areas.
Environment and climate
In addition to the two main islands, East and West Falkland, there are a further 776 smaller islands that make up this archipelago. The climate of the islands is strongly influenced by the ocean, with relatively cool summers and mild winters.
As well as being home to an interesting flora, the islands support important populations of seabirds such as penguins and albatrosses and other animals such as elephant seals.
Saving seeds for the future in the Falkland Islands
In collaboration with Falklands Conservation and with the help of local volunteers, the seed of 76 Falklands species (including nine of the endemics) have been collected. These have been dried and frozen at Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank. Plant species in the collection include the strange-looking endemic snake plant (Nassauvia serpens) and the cushion-forming balsam-bog (Bolax gummifera). These seeds can be grown into plants in the future, perhaps at a time when there are very few remaining in the wild.