Ex situ conservation of exceptional species

Exceptional plant species cannot be conserved by conventional seed banking methods. This includes species whose seed cannot be banked, such as oaks and palms, as well as species like the Florida Ziziphus (Ziziphus celata) that don’t produce seed in the wild. GTC partner BGCI U.S. is working to develop a strategy for the ex situ conservation of exceptional species, including some threatened tree species.

There is currently no comprehensive resource to identify exceptional plant species, but this information is needed to help prioritize and focus ex situ conservation planning and activities. This project, led by BGCI US, is using information about seed storage behavior and data from the BGCI PlantSearch database to identify exceptional threatened taxa in the United States.

BGCI U.S., working with partner botanic gardens and organizations across the U.S., is using threatened oak trees, an important group of exceptional species, as a model for prioritizing and conserving species ex situ.

Acorns will not survive long-term dry storage, and other forms of ex situ conservation like in vitro propagation and cryopreservation are exceptionally challenging for most oak species because of their high tannin content.

Quercus georgiana in vitro.

Quercus georgiana in vitro.

BGCI U.S. is working to identify and increase the conservation value of living collections of these threatened species. Working in collaboration with the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden’s Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife they are utilizing these living collections to support research into appropriate in vitro propagation and cryopreservation techniques. The recent publication in the International Oaks journal illustrates why this work is so important.

A workshop was held during the 5th Global Botanic Gardens Congress in October 2013 to outline challenges and opportunities in global efforts to conserve threatened exceptional species. The main thematic streams of the workshop addressed the issues and challenges pertaining to information gathering, technology, as well as costs and coordination for ex situ conservation of exceptional species.

Did you know?

Quercus georgiana was first discovered in 1849 at Stone mountain, Georgia.