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North America

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Collecting Seed from Brewer Spruce, Iron Mountain, Oregon. Credit: M Way, RBG Kew.

Canada, USA, and Mexico have well established conservation seed-banking programmes that have contributed many collections to the MSB Partnership. The native vascular flora of the continent north of Mexico is well studied and estimated by Natureserve at over 8,400 taxa (Canada) and over 29,000 taxa (USA). Mexico combines temperate and tropical biomes and has an estimated 23,314 native vascular plants (VillaseƱor 2016) of which half are endemic to the country. Mexico has been recognised as an important centre of domestication of crops such as maize, beans, squash and cotton, and around 2000 species of crop wild relative, including sunflower, grape, sweet potato and strawberry have been recognised in the USA (Khoury et al. 2013).

Networks of protected areas including national parks, and biosphere reserves across the continent have helped to slow the loss of plant species on which all ecosystems depend, but all three countries have recognised the importance of ex situ conservation programmes to preserve critical genetic diversity for use by future generations. The MSB Partnership works with government, academic and civil society organisations to seed bank wild plants of conservation importance and from habitats at particular risk from land use and climate change. In North America we partner with public landowners, universities, and botanic gardens that share our objectives, and we cooperate closely with research groups studying the sampling, cryopreservation and use of seed collections.

In USA our projects follow a major collaboration since 2001 with the Bureau of Land Management and associated NGO partners as part of the Seeds of Success programme, targeting species of potential use for habitat restoration. This now forms part of the National Seed Strategy for Rehabilitation and Restoration, which we are supporting with MSB Partnership data and information. It also compliments collaborations since 2015 with USDA Forest Service which have targeted relict populations of conifers vulnerable to projected climate change.

Collaborations in Puerto Rico and the Bahamas also contribute to the MSB Partnership activities in this region.

National Seed Strategy for Rehabilitation and Restoration
https://www.blm.gov/programs/natural-resources/native-plant-communities/national-seed-strategy

Current projects

Conserving seed from the rare and endangered flora of the USA

Supporters: Philecology Trust

Through our partners the Center for Plant Conservation (CPC), threatened plants are prioritised and seed is collected and banked by CPC member organisations with a duplicate seed collection provided to the US national germplasm system. Initial priority has been given to support the California Plant Rescue program (CaPR), collecting some of the most endangered native plants of the state. In 2016 CaPR partners made 40 collections of 27 globally rare species in 8 California counties as part of this project.

The seed conservation partners in this project are:
USACenter for Plant Conservation

Saving the endangered and endemic plants of Baja California, Mexico (Phase 2)

Supporters: Marisla Foundation

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Collecting seed from Brahea armata, Baja California. Credit: W Stuppy RBG Kew.

Implemented with our partners the Faculty of Higher Studies at the Autonomous National University of Mexico (FESI-UNAM), in close cooperation with the Autonomous University of Baja California (UABC), this project is strengthening capacity for seed conservation on the peninsula, and jointly making seed collections of priority native species, for seed-banking at FESI-UNAM and MSB. This project follows a successful first phase of work in 2014 and 2015 also supported by the Marisla Foundation, in which seed collections were made from 250 targeted plant populations.

This project forms part of a wider collaboration between Kew and UNAM to promote and accelerate ex situ seed conservation in Mexico, starting with the arid and semi-arid areas of the country. In the face of rapid changes in land use, urbanisation, climate change, and the encroachment of invasive plant species as well as destructive pathogens and pests, ex situ conservation is an essential measure to protect the native flora.

The seed conservation partners in this project are:
MexicoFESI-UNAM

Science-based conservation of tree species in Mexico

Supporters: Pronatura Veracruz www.pronaturaveracruz.org; Garfield Weston Foundation

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FESI-UNAM collector climbing for tree seed, Puebla, Mexico. Credit: M Way RBG Kew.

Implemented by our partners the Faculty of Higher Studies at the Autonomous National University of Mexico (FESI-UNAM), this project is analysing distribution of endemic, protected and useful tree species of Mexico, making comprehensive seed collections of priority species, carrying out seed research activities to support conservation and use of priority trees, and disseminating our project information to scientific and general audiences. A particular focus of the fieldwork has been in Veracruz state, with the assistance of the NGO Pronatura Veracruz.

This project contributes to the Garfield Weston Global Tree Seed Bank Project and is described in more detail at www.kew.org/science/projects/science-based-conservation-of-tree-species-in-mexico

The seed conservation partners in this project are:
MexicoFESI-UNAM

References

Colin K. Khoury, Stephanie Greene, John Wiersema, Nigel Maxted, Andy Jarvis and Paul C. Struib (2013) An Inventory of Crop Wild Relatives of the United States Crop Sci. 53:1-13 (2013).
a href="https://doi.org/10.2135/cropsci2012.10.0585" target="_blank">doi.org/10.2135/cropsci2012.10.0585.

Natureserve Explorer accessed via www.natureserve.org.

VillaseƱor, J.L. (2016) Checklist of the native vascular plants of Mexico Revista Mexicana de Biodiversidad, Volume 87, Issue 3, Pages 559-902
a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rmb.2016.06.017" target="_blank">doi.org/10.1016/j.rmb.2016.06.017.

For further information please contact Michael Way (m.way@kew.org), Conservation Partnership Coordinator for the Americas at the MSB.