Kew's Science Projects
Kew scientists are involved in hundreds of scientific projects of varying scales ranging from individual PhD research programmes to large-scale network endeavours involving more than 40 institutional partners, across several continents. These project profiles document all our significant science projects (whether externally or internally funded).
Research into trade in species that are listed on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) or are potential candidates for such listing.
Implementing Kew’s role as the UK Scientific Authority for Plants under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES)
Systematics of Clerodendrum and related genera (Lamiaceae): clarifying generic limits and completing revisions for tropical Asian floras and for horticultural applications.
Following external policy drivers to help to guide relevant Kew science programmes to address climate change.
The temperature and salinity limits to germination can be modelled and used as predictive tools to assess the impact of climate change on seed germination.
Along with our Mozambican partners, detailed plant and vegetation surveys were done of coastal dry forests in northern Mozambique. High levels of endemism and numerous new species were discovered. The extent of dry forest was much less than previously thought, which was brought to the attention of the Mozambican authorities, resulting in a number of conservation initiatives.
(project completed 2010)
Understanding the role that animals have played in driving plant speciation,
A project aimed at understanding the relationships and evolution of coffee species using DNA technologies. Providing a framework for research, conservation and sustainability of this important crop.
Collecting seed from the flora of Bulgaria, for conservation in the Millennium Seed Bank.
Collecting seed from the flora of Kyrgyzstan, for conservation in the country of origin and at the Millennium Seed Bank. The collections in-country have been used to research potential medicinal properties.
Colletotrichum is an economically important genus of plant pathogens, causing substantial losses and postharvest damage to a wide range of crops, especially in the tropics. Modern phylogenetic analysis is revealing many new species of Colletotrichum, and providing insights into speciation processes.
Building capacity for sustainable community resource management and conservation on the Xixuaú river, Brazil
Providing an updated, fully synonymized, annotated checklist of the Compositae of Brazil, available online and in print
Since 2009, RBG Kew has undertaken vegetation surveys and capacity building in Congo (Brazzaville), with the partnership of CERVE - Herbier National and University Marien Ngouabi.
The first conservation checklist for East Africa will deal with some 800 tree species; each species is assessed for its conservation status, and those in the Vulnerable or Endangered categories will be given a full treatment with local names, uses, maps and images.
The first Red List assignment of European orchids
RBG Kew performs around two thousand of conservation assessments every year – a key component of Kew's Breathing Planet Programme Strategy 2 (identifying highly threatened species and regions). A system is being developed to streamline the process of gathering and disseminating this data to get maximum impact for conservation.
Identification of important plant species, habitats and areas within the cerrado biome of the Chiquitania region
To assess the conservation status of the Afromontane flora in Eastern Africa and provide strategies to conserve threatened species through ex-situ seed banking and species restoration.
The purpose of this project is the ex situ conservation of the flora of the Caucasus, with the majority of the work to date carried out in Georgia. All targeted species are conserved as seed bank collections and some have also been propagated.
Fingerprinting rare UK plants to inform conservation decisions
Publication of a book to interpret recent changes in the classification of lilioid monocots
Restoring the larval food plant of the small pearl-boarded fritillary
An international project to produce a comprehensive summary of cactus seed biology from experimental research and from the literature (both published and institutional reports), to enhance understanding and conservation of this socio-economic important family.
Long-term storage of difficult (non-orthodox) seeds and plant tissues will be dependent on the application of low temperature science, particularly cryopreservation, which provides options for the storage of seeds, embryos, shoot-tips and totipotent cells.
Adapting agriculture to climate change is one of the most urgent challenges of our time. There is, quite simply, no more important step we can take to prepare for climate change than to ensure that the crops that feed humanity are adapted.
This project investigates the morphology, ontogeny and evolution of the remarkable flower-like inflorescences of Euphorbiaceae
Cyrtandra is the largest genus in the Gesneriaceae (African Violet family), with an estimated 600+ species: we aim to further our knowledge of the genus through taxonomic and phylogenetic study, continuing the work that has already shown Cyrtandra to be a model genus for answering critical biological questions.
Systematics, taxonomy, floristics, biogeography and uses of Dalbergioid legume genera.
Assessing the coastal biodiversity of Anegada to support the development of a Biodiversity Action Plan for the island
(project completed 2009)
This project looked at a series of isolated mountains across north-central Mozambique and southern Malawi, surveying vegetation, plant and bird species. A number of new species were discovered, and the public profile and conservation importance of these areas was significantly raised with the Mozambique government and internationally, resulting in follow-up conservation projects.
As an ongoing activity since 1996, Kew’s herbarium specimens have been databased, improving records by georeferencing and taxonomic identification of all specimens in the database.
Developing a database for those involved with fungal conservation
An account of the genus Dendrobium sensu stricto in Borneo (between 160 and 170 species)
Certain crop species may present difficulties in their conservation and use due to recalcitrant storage behaviour, inappropriate handling and/or dormancy issues. The project purpose was to improve identification, handling, storage and use of such species. Although aimed primarily at gene banks, the project is also relevant to community seed banks, and others aiming to maintain seed quality during storage.
(project completed 2006)
The DIRECTS project investigates seed physiology and provides training for the longer term conservation of tropical community tree seeds through the MSB partnership in sub-Saharan Africa.
Exploring and conserving one of the richest and most threatened palm floras in the world.
This project is documenting the macrofungal community (mushrooms and allies) within the boundaries of Gunung Mulu National Park (Sarawak, Malaysia) using field surveys, comparative morphology, DNA barcoding, and phylogenetic analysis.
A Guide to the Plants of East Sabah; a field guide to common families of lowland rainforests of Danum Valley, Maliau Basin and Imbak Canyon was published in 2010
Taxonomic and systematic studies of an important timber tree family
Documenting one of the key components of the rain forests of Latin America
Databasing protocols used for extraction of DNA from herbarium specimens
Creating a molecular reference library for the UK flora and mycota.
To support DNA banking activities and related conservation projects in South Africa, with a strong capacity-building component
Deciding which short sequences of DNA can be used to identify plants