Seed banks will not save over third of critically endangered plants, new study finds

Seed banks will not save over third of critically endangered plants, new study finds

Scientists call for investment in alternative technologies to protect species from climate change and disease

More than a third of critically endangered plant species cannot be saved from extinction by freezing them in seed banks, scientists have warned.

Projects such as the Svalbard Global Seed Vault have been set up to protect the world’s plant diversity from doomsday events ranging from nuclear war to extreme climate change.

In the UK, Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank is aiming to protect three quarters of the world’s threatened plant species within the next two years.

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"Ex-situ conservation of plants is more critical than ever, with many threats to plant populations including climate change, habitat conversion and plant pathogens, we need to make sure we're doing all we can to conserve the most important and threatened species,” said Dr John Dickie, head of seed collections at Kew.

However, for many of the most at-risk plants, conventional storage techniques will not work, and a team of Kew scientists has called for research into alternative measures to ensure their survival.

In total around 8 per cent of all plant species cannot be banked by drying and freezing their seeds, including trees like oaks and horse chestnuts, and foods including mangos and avocados.