Germination capacity and viability of threatened species collections in seed banks

Godefroid, Sandrine; Van de Vyver, Ann; Vanderborght, Thierry
May 2010
Biodiversity & Conservation;May2010, Vol. 19 Issue 5, p1365
Academic Journal
Facing the current biodiversity crisis, the value of ex situ conservation has been increasingly acknowledged in international treaties and legislations. Seed banks are a good way of conserving biodiversity, providing that seeds are of high quality and at maximum viability. However, despite the number of established ex situ facilities, there is little information on seed viability in botanic garden seed banks. This paper analyses the status of the seed collection of the National Botanic Garden of Belgium by determining the germination capacity and viability of seeds that have been stored for 1-26 years. It aims at: (1) ensuring that existing storage conditions provide effective ex situ conservation of threatened species; (2) providing viability data on threatened species; (3) planning future collection and storage efforts for seeds of West European species of conservation value. Results from this study showed that the germination and viability percentages of the 250 tested species reached on average 59 and 79% respectively. Some families typically performed better than others. Within a species, consistent results were not always obtained. Over a quarter of accessions exhibited some degree of dormancy. Considering the current lack of knowledge in seed germination and dormancy of many rare and threatened species, we believe that the quality of a seed collection should be estimated by its viability and not by its germination percentage. This study calls for further research in order to better understand the biology of a range of threatened native species.


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