A list of 53 species whose seeds are stored in the Irish Threatened Plant Genebank is accessible HERE.
If you would like to help conserve any of these highly valuable species, please join GHI.
threatened irish plant genebank
The estimated number of higher plant species in the world exceeds 250,000 and these species form the great wealth of the earth's plant genetic resources contributing towards biodiversity. However, an increasing world human population threatens this biodiversity, with land being developed for agricultural, industrial and socio-economic reasons. It has been estimated that some 25% of the world's plant species could become extinct over the next 50 years. What can be done to help? With the loss of natural habitats, increasing emphasis is now being placed on the importance of natural populations of plants in terms of their genetic diversity and it's possible future contribution to improving plants we already use for food, shelter and medicine.
There are two forms of conservation: in situ where national reserves and wildlife parks are
established thus allowing the conservation of whole ecosystems and ex situ where species are
conserved out of their natural habitat and their seeds, plants, plant parts, tissues or cells are
preserved in an artificial environment. One of the most common forms of ex situ conservation
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what are genebanks?
Genebanks are repositories of genetic material (seeds or DNA) collected from species found in the wild or collected from domesticated, cultivated species, for example crop varieties, which are important in terms of their genetic diversity. Of all the efforts aimed at conserving plant genetic resources, the establishment of genebanks is the most commonly used and today there are in excess of one thousand genebanks in 121 countries around the world.
Seed genebanks are an efficient and cost-effective way of conserving genetic diversity as many
thousands of collections can be housed in a small area, the seeds themselves require relatively little
attention and their storage can be easily duplicated in different places thus limiting their
vulnerability. Seed collections can also provide an invaluable research tool whereby elements of the
ecology and species behaviour of plants can be investigated and information on species conservation
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Irish Threatened Plant Genebank
The Irish Red Data Book: 1 Vascular Plants (1988) lists 130 plant species as threatened within Ireland. Many of these plants occur outside existing or proposed protected areas and several are restricted to single small populations. In order to address this potential conservation problem, Genetic Heritage Ireland initiated a project in 1994 to collect and store seeds of selected threatened Irish plants and The Irish Threatened Plant Genebank was established.
Funded by The National Heritage Council, this project was the winner of the 1997 European Ford Conservation Award. The genebank is housed in the Trinity College Botanic Gardens and over a four year period from 1994-1998, 165 collections from all over Ireland, representing 59 species of plants were made. These species included 50% of Ireland's endangered species, 48% of it's vulnerable species and 31% of its rare species. The seeds are stored in laminated packets which are placed in containers in a freezer at -18oC. Many of the species housed in the genebank, while of no direct commercial value, are important as their numbers are limited in the wild and many of their habitats are disappearing. Without their conservation, many of these species could vanish forever, as withTrifolium subterraneum in Ireland. The storing of seed from these species acts as an insurance against them going extinct in the wild as it allows for their use in future restoration work if needed.
The threatened plant genebank also contains seeds of crops such as rye (Secale cereale) and rare species of barley (Hordeum secalinum). The rye seeds stored in the genebank are from an old landrace of rye thought to have originated on the Aran Islands off the west coast of Ireland, where the seed has been hand saved for generations.