Conserving the Flora of the Balkans: Native Plants of Greece

Seed collecting and research to ensure the long-term survival of Greece's diverse flora

Looking down at a dry small cliff descending into the sea. Patches of grass and rocks can be seen, as well as a winding path.
Kew Project lead

Dr Aisyah Faruk

Kew Project officer

Ian Willey

Greek Project Leader

Professor Costas Thanos (National and Kapodistrian University of Athens)

Home to ca. 5,900 plant species (or ca. 6800 taxa), Greece is one of the most biodiverse countries in Europe and the Mediterranean.

One fifth of these species are found exclusively in Greece. Of the species so far assessed by science, 12% are threatened with extinction. However, only 27% of the country’s threatened species are currently conserved in seed banks within the Millennium Seed Bank Partnership (MSBP).

Threats to this biodiversity are greater than ever with tourism, agriculture and deforestation causing significant harm through environmental pollution and land-use change.

Fallout from the 2010 financial crisis and the global pandemic has placed additional pressures on natural ecosystems and delicate habitats, many of which are already experiencing the effects of accelerated climate change.

If ex situ conservation of plant genetic diversity is not implemented quickly, numerous species may be pushed into extinction.

RBG Kew and the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Greece (NKUA) are delivering a three-year project titled Conserving the Flora of the Balkans: Native Plants of Greece.

The project aims to collect and bank seed from 500 native plant species from Greece’s mainland, collections will be conserved in ex situ seed banks in Greece, and duplicated to the MSB, as an insurance policy for each species.

Over 90% of the collections will come from three regions containing significant distributions and diversity of plant life: Peloponnese, Central Greece and West Aegean.

At least 25% of the species collected will be Greek endemics, species that occur nowhere else in the world.

By collecting and banking seeds from at least 500 native plant species the project will make a significant contribution to protecting native species against extinction but will also create a vital resource for scientists studying and protecting the Greek flora.

Researchers at NKUA will use seed collections to identify the best storage conditions for native species, ensuring their survival in seed banks for decades to centuries.

They will also undertake germination tests on every seed collection, generating new knowledge that will support future conservation and restoration efforts for native species.

RBG Kew and NKUA will work together to train a Greek PhD student investigating storage and germination of Greek orchids. RBG Kew will also provide seed conservation training to staff and students in Greece and support development of seed banking facilities in Greece.

By investing in people and infrastructure, the project will create a self-reliant and sustainable seed bank, able of conducting world leading conservation and research beyond project completion

Output 1

Conservation seed collections of 500 species from mainland Greece. At least 25% of the collected species will be Greek endemics.

Output 2

Training and capacity building for NKUA staff and students in seed collecting, processing, and banking. In addition, research training in germination testing to MSB standards will be provided to the visiting PhD student at the MSB.

Output 3

Research into germination of collected species to support ex situ and in situ conservation of 500 native plant species from Greece’s mainland.

Output 4

Sharing and dissemination of project learning. Seed collection data and germination protocols made accessible through MSBP Data Warehouse and made public after publication by NKUA or within three years of project end.

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