Banking the UK's seeds
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Banking the UK’s seeds

The Programme comprises the UK Flora Project, The UK National Tree Seed Project and the UK Native Seed Hub. It works to maintain and enhance the UK repository for seeds and associated knowledge, to increase the quality, quantity and diversity of native plant material available for research, conservation and habitat restoration in the UK.

Project Details

Project Department: 
Project Leader: 
Funded By: 
Players of People’s Postcode Lottery, The Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, The J. Paul Getty Jnr Charitable Trust and The Steel Charitable Trust

Objectives And Outputs

Since the mid 20th century, species-rich habitats in the UK have been destroyed or degraded at an alarming rate. Surviving patches of habitat are unsustainably small and fragmented, vulnerable to further degradation in the face of a changing climate and ever-growing demands on the natural environment. Many species, particularly trees, are under significant threat from an increasing number of pest and disease outbreaks.

In the ground-breaking report Making Space for Nature, Sir John Lawton and colleagues (2010) set out an ambitious new strategy for UK conservation – to rebuild nature on a landscape scale, creating resilient and coherent ecological networks to expand and link existing habitats with buffer zones, wildlife corridors and areas of active restoration and habitat creation.

The Millennium Seed Bank (MSB)'s UK activities seek to support this ambition through the provision of suitable plant material and data to support conservation and research initiatives. The UK Flora Project has now safely banked 95% of the UK orthodox, seed-bearing native flora in the MSB and continues to work with botanists across the UK to bank those very tricky final species which are often hard to identify or rarely seed. It is also working to increase both the overall quantity of UK seed collections in the MSB, and to increase the genetic representativeness of those collections, in order to ensure we can provide high quality collections for use in science, education and conservation. Particular attention is being paid to capturing genetic representativeness for the woody flora of the UK, through the UK National Tree Seed Project.

The UK Native Seed Hub aims to increase the quantity, quality and diversity of native plants and seeds available for conservation and habitat restoration in the UK landscape. We supply high quality seed and plug plants of known provenance for re-introduction and restoration projects.  

We carry out research to overcome the constraints to collecting, banking and using the seed of the UK flora. This includes understanding the storage, germination and propagation requirements of ‘difficult’ species, and how best to make use of seed in the landscape. Genetic studies seek to better understand how to capture genetically representative collections of the UK flora, and the risks associated with using seed of a certain provenance in different parts of the UK. We work with a wide range of partners across the UK, and regularly share scientific, technical and practical skills in order to raise the capacity across the UK for seed collecting, banking and use.

Objectives

  • Build comprehensive, genetically representative seed collections across the UK flora and ensure that these are accessible to users.
  • Provide specialist advice, training and technical expertise on collecting, storage, germination and propagation of the UK native flora.
  • Undertake research to understand and overcome constraints to the collection, storage and use of native plant materials and facilitate their use in research and biodiversity conservation initiatives.

Outputs

  • Genetically representative collections of at least 50 UK native woody species banked in the MSB.
  • 97% of the bankable UK flora held in the MSB.
  • An additional 350 collections of priority species banked in the MSB and available to users.
  • A published review of the germination and storage requirements of UK woody species.
  • Development, and adoption by MSB, of new seed conservation protocols to improve the storage and supply of the UK native flora.
  • The provision of seed, technical expertise or practical assistance to conservation projects.

Partners and Collaborators

UK

We work with over 60 partners from all over the UK. These partners range from national statutory agencies such as Natural England, Natural Resources Wales, Scottish Natural Heritage and Forestry Commission, to large conservation organisations such as the Wildlife Trusts, the National Trust and the Woodland Trust, through to other botanic gardens and a range of small local conservation and woodland groups.

Further Information

Contact the Project Leader, Clare Trivedi: c.trivedi@kew.org