The Millennium Seed Bank Partnership is the largest wild seed conservation project in the world. Based at Wakehurst - the Royal Botanic Garden, Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank (MSB) stores over 86,000 seed collections, representing more than 39,000 plant species from across the globe.
Habitat loss, climate change, disease and over-exploitation have resulted in around one fifth of the world’s plant species becoming endangered. Storing their seeds is a cost-effective way to protect these species against future threats. The seed collections stored at the MSB are a vital tool for use in scientific research (such as tackling food security challenges) and for practical conservation work to restore species-rich communities, right now and in the future.
Banking the UK’s seeds is one of the MSB’s priorities, and collections of almost 97% of the UK’s seed-producing flowering plant species with orthodox (drying-tolerant) seeds have already been safely stored. This covers over two thousand taxa from a diverse range of habitats and even includes Interrupted Brome, a UK endemic species (meaning it is only found in this country) that is already extinct in the wild.
Once a wild collection has been made, it can be used to create much larger stocks of hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of seeds. This is one of the ways that the UK Native Seed Hub (UKNSH), a MSB project launched in 2011, works towards increasing the quantity, quality and diversity of native seeds available for habitat restoration and species re-introduction programmes across the UK. Species are targeted if they are rare, difficult to grow or required for specific conservation projects. So far, the UKNSH has provided seed, plants or technical expertise to 57 restoration projects, and we are very excited to now be a Delivery Partner for Colour in the Margins, the Back from the Brink project aiming to benefit our threatened arable species.
Over a series of blogs, we will explain the scientific process behind storing, germinating, growing, harvesting and finally using the regenerated seed collections for Colour in the Margins. This year, the UKNSH will be producing seed stocks of four rare arable species: Corn Buttercup, Small-flowered Catchfly, Spreading Hedge-parsley and Red Hemp-nettle; and supplying seed from a previous crop of Pheasant’s Eye.
Each species will present its own unique challenges throughout the process, so join us across the seasons as we attempt to bring these species back from the brink!
UK Native Seed Hub Project Assistant
Millennium Seed Bank
To follow the collaborative work of Kew's Millennium Seed Bank & Back from the Brink - keep an eye on our website: naturebftb.co.uk and follow us on social media for updates: @naturebftb