Seed banks 'critical' to saving plant species

2013-08-02 10:04
The Western Cape has rich biodiversity. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

The Western Cape has rich biodiversity. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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Cape Town - One key strategy to limit the impact of global climate change that may have an impact of food production is the creation of a seed bank, an activist has asserted.

"Conservation techniques, such as the creation of seed banks and seed exchanges among farmers, gardeners, and even nations, play an important role in preserving ancient, heirloom varieties of important food crops," Danielle Nierenberg, co-founder of Food Tank told News24.

According to Nierenberg, seed banks are ideal strategies to preserve the more than 100 000 threatened species on plants worldwide.

While most of these face extinction through habitat loss through processes related to climate and changing patterns, sensitive varieties are also threatened because of ill-planned land development.

Food Tank is collaborating with the Science & Environmental Health Network (Sehn) in an effort to preserve critical species through seed banks.

Medicinal use

According to the World Wide Fund for Nature, South Africa will feel the impact of climate change through water and food production first as food-growing regions are affected by changing weather patterns.

"South Africa is going to feel the effects of climate change first through water resources. We have to manage that certainty of supply in new and different ways," hydrogeologist Christine Colvin, senior manager of Freshwater Programmes at the WWF SA told News24.

The AVRDC – The World Vegetable Centre is a non-profit organisation based in Taiwan that holds more than 59 500 different germplasms from 156 countries.

Other organisations, like Camino Verde have planted 40 different varieties of flowering and 40 species of fruit trees over 7ha in order to expand conservation.

The biggest programme of seed conservation is the Millennium Seed Bank Partnership which has saved over 10% of the global plant species in Wakefield in the UK.

One additional value that seed banks provide is the ability to test plants for medicinal use that may have positive implications for modern health treatments.


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