Review of seed collection protocols



Seed banking is recognized as the most effective method of ex situ conservation of plant biodiversity. Recent reports, however, show that further efforts are urgently needed to achieve GSPC target 8. There are many protocols intended to optimize the quality of accessions of seeds collected from the wild. These are scattered in published guidelines, gray literature or even internal notes and may contain varied recommendations. The existence of clear guidelines for genetically representative collections is however crucial for seed-based restoration. To identify existing protocols, an online search was carried out by working group 2, supplemented by emails sent to seed bank curators and COST Action members. In order to identify common themes against which to assess the protocols, another online search was conducted to find published academic sources that provided information on ex situ conservation and the research behind it. The references cited in each protocol have also been addressed and the specific recommendations within the protocols have been organized according to a number of key aspects of seed collection. We have found that existing protocols are inconsistent when it comes to the key considerations included. No key considerations were included in each protocol and only two protocols contained all 16 key considerations. Striking is the under-representation of recommendations to include range-edge populations, implying that rare alleles that may be useful in certain circumstances are omitted from seed collections, which could compromise the success of future reintroductions on the basis of populations that are not sufficiently resilient. A lack of updates in the protocols analyzed is another problem identified in this study. Old protocols are still used even when research has made new information available. Additionally, many protocols do not include citations, so the origin of a recommendation cannot be traced and updated. There is also a lot of variation between recommendations, which can lead to incomplete collections within ex situ facilities, resulting in a possible lack of genetic diversity across a broad range of taxa.

Based in this work, a technical paper proposing an updated protocol is being finalized. It is meant for plant conservation practitioners who intend to design a seed collection strategy for a threatened plant species, or develop strategies that aim to improve and/or optimize existing collections.

This activity is being performed by WG2, led by Sandrine Godefroid and Andreas Ensslin.