Kew's Millennium Seed Bank partnership – Turks and Caicos Islands
Plant species are becoming extinct more than ever before and at an increasing rate. A real threat to plant life is habitat loss, often due to human activities, which is a problem on the Turks and Caicos Islands. In order to protect plants we need to collect and store seeds. These seeds can be germinated and planted in the wild when and where they are most needed.
Preparing a herbarium specimen on the Turks and Caicos Islands (Image: Thomas Heller, RBG Kew)
Plant life is under threat on the Turks and Caicos Islands
The Turks and Caicos Islands are a group of tropical coral islands making up part of the Bahamas Archipelago. Invasive plants and habitat loss due to the expansion of the islands’ tourist industry are contributing to the vulnerability of native plants. A particular problem is the invasive Australian whistling pine, Casuarina equisetifolia.
Saving seeds for the future on the Turks and Caicos Islands
Working with the Turks and Caicos National Trust, Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank Project (MSBP) are supporting the work of a dedicated seed collector. Seeds from plants that are considered the highest conservation priorities will be collected for long-term storage at Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank. Since 2006, around 140 species have been collected for ex-situ conservation. These include Island Heather (Limonium bahamense) which is found exclusively on the islands, and other species restricted to the Bahamas Archipelago. The seeds have been dried and frozen, keeping them viable for decades to come. In the future we will be able to call upon these seeds to grow into plants and put back in the wild. Kew’s MSBP is already actively involved in many such restoration programmes worldwide.