Where we work
We work in over 100 countries worldwide to document and conserve global plant and fungal diversity.
We work in over 100 countries, and partner with over 400 institutions worldwide, to help tackle some of the world’s biggest issues.
As a global resource for plant and fungal knowledge, we continue to discover and document plant and fungal diversity. We are only able to do this thanks to an extensive international network of partners, institutions, communities and consortia.
We deliver training and build capacity, so we can share our expertise to conserve and protect the world's future environment and its resources.
Discovering more species
Cameroon, Guinea, Mozambique and Uganda have been identified as Tropical Important Plant Areas (TIPAs) in Africa, thanks to our partnership with Plantlife International. There has been a surge of species discovery, for example, in Cameroon where the impressive ‘moon rocket’ tree (Desbordesia glaucescens) was found in lowland rainforest. As a result the hotspots of diversity in need of protection have now been identified.
In Sub-Saharan Africa desertification threatens some of the world’s poorest people. The Africa Union delivers a project known as Africa's Great Green Wall that aims to halt land degradation by introducing sustainable land use. We help partners in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger by supplying suitable species that local communities request. For example, where native woodland has been deforested due overexploitation for grazing, fuel and charcoal we have supplied Acacia senega as replacements. This small tree not only provides fuel and charcoal but produces gum arabic which has many uses and can be sold for high prices.
West Central Africa is the area of greatest biodiversity richness in tropical Africa, we have a project on Detarioideae (a subfamily of forest trees widely found there). As well as studying its diversity and evolutionary history, the results feed in to GLDAFRICA a world-wide project that undertakes global legume assessments. The aim is to understand biodiversity loss using legumes (a major family of flowering plants) as a proxy to help in conservation planning.
Find out more about our projects in Africa
Knowledge sharing from artefacts
Barkcloth was once a vital material in the lives of Pacific islanders but European impact in the 19th century disrupted its production and use. This project looks at three internationally important barkcloth collections, one of which is in our Economic Botany Collection. The history of barkcloth has been researched using archives and analysing the materials, we have also undertaken fieldwork in the Pacific islands. The results have been combined in a joint database and shared by exhibitions, training and workshops.
Documenting the flora
New Guinea has been designated as one of the three remaining tropical wilderness areas by Conservation International. This tropical island has large areas of diverse intact habitats, from mangroves to rainforests and alpine grasslands. As part of our Tropical Important Plant Areas (TIPA) programme we work with in-country partners, especially Universitas Papua, to identify the important plant areas. We have undertaken many expeditions there and as a result we are naming, databasing and geo-referencing all incoming material.
Protecting medicinal plants
In Pakistan there is a strong traditional medicine sector which provides an important source of employment and healthcare, particularly in rural and tribal areas of the country. The country is blessed with a rich diversity of medicinal and aromatic plants, however this is threatened by unsustainable levels of harvesting, habitat degradation, climate change and a lack of regulation. A three-year project therefore aims to collect the seeds of 150 medicinal and aromatic plant species for conservation in-country and within our Millennium Seed Bank.
Find out more about our projects in Asia
Restoring habitats with native species
On the Falkland Islands erosion is one of the major threats to habitats, there are large areas of bare ground, whether sand, clay or peat. We work with Falklands Conservation to investigate the use of native seeds to re-vegetate a wide range of ground. The only seed available for purchase in the Falklands is from non-native species which are often ill-adapted to the harsh growing conditions found there and have poor long-term survival. A more diverse array of native species should need less planting effort than the tussac and blue grasses (Poa species) previously used.
Predicting the impact of climate change
This is one of many projects we are involved in under the Colombia Bio programme, established by the Colombian government. It assesses the impact of climate change on important plants for the ecosystem services of the páramos of Boyacá. The páramos are high-altitude sky islands above the timber-line in the tropical Andes, they provide fresh water to local communities as well as being part of their culture and traditions. Unfortunately, the area covered by páramos is shrinking at an alarming pace, mostly due to climate change via increased temperatures and changes in rainfall patterns. We trying to predict the likely responses of key plant species by undertaking field expeditions to collect data then modelling the impact of climate change on the ecosystem.
Trees in Mexico are one of the most important natural resources existing in the country, providing food, medicines, fuel and vital ecosystem services such as the prevention of soil erosion. We have two projects that are both working with local partners to select and prioritise species that are endemic, protected or useful so that their seeds can be conserved in seed banks.
UK and Europe
Collecting and conserving flora
The Millennium Seed Bank Partnership (MSBP) is on a quest to secure 25 per cent of all plant species by 2020. The Caucasus programme is part of this mission with a staggering list of over 2,000 endemic plant species in the region alone, so we have strong partnerships with local botanical and research institutions in Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. Through these partnerships, the MSB will secure the conservation of rare, threatened and useful species of Caucasus flora, as well as to build in-country capacity for plant conservation.
Combating threats to plant health
Ash trees are the third most common trees in the British landscape, but millions of them are now affected by the fungus causing ash dieback. An even bigger threat, the emerald ash borer, is found in Asia and North America. We analyse ash genomes to find genes to overcome these threats. We preserve native genetic variation of UK ash in our Millennium Seed Bank. This project is a partnership with Forest Research, Forestry Commission Scotland and Earlham Institute as well as Queen Mary University of London and University of York.
Understanding alpine ecosystems
Alpine flora is unique thanks to the diversity of habitats and the harsh environments that drive species to change and adapt. To understand more about these ecosystems we study the Asteraceae (for example, sunflowers, edelweiss, daisies) which is particularly well represented in the European Alpine flora at high altitude. This project investigates the role of polyploidy and chromosomal rearrangements as evolutionary drivers in alpine ecosystems. We are working in partnership with Queen Mary University of London and international botanic gardens.
Our scientific resources are a global asset but the greatest benefits to science, conservation policy and education worldwide come when we form partnerships.
A blossoming partnership in Japan
The University of the Ryukyus,Japan has recently become a partner on the Global Tree Seed Bank Project. Sharon Balding shares their involvement.
We're committed to sharing our knowledge, skills and expertise to the next generation of plant and fungal scientists.