My name is Paul Smith and I need your help to save our plant species
We could sit back and watch plant species disappear like so many lights going off in the darkness to follow. We'd lose biodiversity on earth, we'd lose potential medicines and food, we'd lose the animal life that depends on those plants and ultimately we'd lose ourselves.
Paul Smith of the Millennium Seed Bank
There is no technical reason why a single species of plant should ever now become extinct.Dr. Paul Smith, Head of the Millennium Seed Bank
Why do we need to do this?
At the end of 2009 Kew's Millennium Seed Bank project, together with our partners in 50 countries worldwide, successfully saved seeds from 10% of the world's wild plant species.
By 2020, our aim is to secure the safe storage of seed from 25% of the world’s plants. We target plants and regions most at risk from climate change and the ever-increasing impact of human activities. We also save the seeds of the world's plant life faced with the threat of extinction, and those that could be of most use in the future.
Why Kew saves seeds
Today, between 60,000 and 100,000 species of plant are faced with the threat of extinction – roughly a quarter of all plant species.
Plants are dying out largely due to the activities of people. Clearing of primary vegetation, over-exploitation and climate change are all causing species loss.
We need plants because plants are useful. Plants provide the air we breathe, they provide clean water, fuel, building materials, fibres and resins, and we all rely on plants for food.
Plants also play a vital role in combating climate change. Plants maintain the atmosphere and counteract climate change by absorbing carbon dioxide, turning it into plant material. Kew’s projects are supporting plants in mitigating and adapting to our changing climate.
Plants hold potential for our future
We already know of thousands of plants that are useful to people, but many more have the potential to be useful in the future.
Over 30,000 species of plant are edible, but we use only a tiny fraction of these in commercial agriculture. In the future we may well need a much greater range of species, particularly if climate change alters growing seasons or the world’s population continues to increase and we run out of prime agricultural land.
Plants are also vital for medicine. About 70% of the world’s population relies on traditional plant remedies for medicine. Only one in five plant species have been screened for use in medicine. Cures for diseases could lie in many of these unscreened species.
Keep up to date with events and news from Kew
The latest news and blogs
10 May 2013
With a host of new pests and diseases attacking the United Kingdom’s native treescape, Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank is tackling the threat by establishing the country’s first national collection of tree seeds – the UK National Tree Seed Project.
08 Nov 2012
A new study from Kew suggests that Arabica coffee could be extinct in the wild within 70 years.
18 May 2010
Kew’s top propagation ‘code-breaker’, horticulturist Carlos Magdalena, has cracked the enigma of growing a rare species of African waterlily. The 'thermal’ lily (Nymphaea thermarum) is believed to be the smallest waterlily in the world, with pads that can be as little as 1 cm in diameter.
14 Sep 2011
The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew announced today that Director (CEO and Chief Scientist), Professor Stephen Hopper FLS will step down in autumn 2012 after six years in the job.