Encompassing five floristic regions, nine 'biodiversity hotspots' and one 'tropical forest wilderness', Asia is a treasure chest of botanical riches. This high diversity is partly due to the continent's huge variations in geography and climate, ranging from the boreal forests of northern Russia, through the grass and shrublands of Central Asia, down to the humid tropical forests of Indonesia. An important centre of diversity is the Malay Archipeligo, which includes Singapore, Indonesia, East Timor, Brunei, the Philippines and parts of Malaysia, and comprises over 25,000 islands, many of which support endemic species (those limited to a specific geographic area). The island of New Guinea is also particularly diverse and one of only three designated 'tropical forest wilderness' areas in the world.
Biodiversity hotspots are the Earth's biologically richest and most endangered terrestrial ecoregions, and are therefore top priorities for conservation. The Millennium Seed Bank is working towards developing partnerships in each of the hotspots areas, as well as the still relatively intact forest wilderness of Indonesian New Guinea. This will help local partners to protect their botanical heritage through seed conservation and research.
Funder: Garfield Weston Foundation
The Garfield Weston Global Tree Seed Bank Project aims to conserve seeds of 3,000 tree species and Asia will contribute 494 species towards this target. The Asia programme is operating in Bhutan, Thailand, Indonesia (Sumatra and Java) and Japan, representing the biodiversity hotspots of Eastern Himalayas, Indo-Burma, Sundaland and Japan respectively.
Bhutan: Forming part of the Eastern Biodiversity hotspot and boasting an altitudinal range from 97 to 7570 metres above sea level, Bhutan is a country of extraordinarily high biodiversity. 5,500 plant species are recorded, of which 750 are endemic to the Eastern Himalayas and over 100 are known only in Bhutan. It is likely that many more are still to be discovered and described by science. Bhutan has an impressive track record of safeguarding natural resources, with a government commitment to maintain 60% of the land surface as forest, and 51% given protected status as National Parks or Biological Corridors.
In April 2018 the University of the Ryukyus in Okinawa signed a partnership agreement with Kew to collect seeds, for conservation and research, from three Islands in Japan. As part of the Global Tree Seed Bank Project - Japan, the University of the Ryukyus and colleagues from the University of Kyushu will collect the seeds of 100 tree and shrub species for long term conservation. The seeds of 70 tree species will also be collected for research on their seed desiccation tolerance.
The project kicked off with a five-day training course at the University of the Ryukyus, Okinawa which was attended by participants from the University of the Ryukyus, Kyushu University and representatives from six other organisations. The course covered many aspects of seed conservation, such as preparing for and conducting a seed collecting trip, post-harvest handling, as well as germination testing, dormancy breaking and desiccation sensitivity testing.
The main objective of the Adapting Agriculture to Climate Change project is to collect, conserve and utilise the crop wild relatives of 29 globally important food crops, ensuring their long-term conservation and facilitating their use in breeding new, improved crops. The global gap analysis carried out by the project identified the most critical gaps for global food security to be in south and Southeast Asia, amongst other regions.
Within Asia we are working with national genebanks in Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan and Vietnam through partnerships with the following organisations:
Between 2014 and 2018 partners in these countries will make 821 high quality seed collections from crop wild relative taxa related to 21 crops, in particular rice, banana and pigeon pea. To achieve this we have trained 42 staff from the four partner organisations in seed conservation techniques on courses delivered in Vietnam, Malaysia and at the Millennium Seed Bank.
Funder: Roger and Ingrid Pilkington Trust
While not part of the wider Adapting Agriculture to Climate Change project, we are also working with the Thailand Institute of Scientific and Technological Research to bank seeds of from 68 taxa related to globally important food crops in Thailand, including bananas, figs and rice.
Funder: Arcadia Foundation
In addition to the Adapting Agriculture to Climate Change Project our partners are collecting a further 37 taxa related to a broader suite of crop species. These include pear, cucumber and buckwheat.
Funder: Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
Funder: Bentham Moxon Foundation, the Merlin Trust and tbc
Kyrgyzstan (officially the Kyrgyz Republic) lies at the heart of the Mountains of Central Asia Biodiversity Hotspot. It is home to a highly diverse flora, which includes around 4,000 seed bearing plant species, of which about 10% are endemic. A number of these species contain biologically active natural compounds of great potential value to medicine.
The MSB has a partnership agreement with the Institute of Biotechnology, within the Kyrgyz National Academy of Sciences and we have been working together to bank the seeds of Kyrgyzstan's flora since 2004. There are currently over 931 species collected in Kyrgyzstan duplicated in the Millennium Seed Bank, with a similar number stored in the seed bank of the Biotechnology Institute.
Kew is also working with the Institute of Biotechnology to create a Silk Road themed garden at Wakehurst Place. This will be a 2-acre flowering meadow filled with colourful flowers from the steppes and mountains of the northern Silk Road trade routes, including Tulips, Allium, Iris, Delphinium, Trollius, Geranium and Eremerus (the Foxtail Lily). The aim is to introduce Wakehurst's visitors to the extraordinary beauty of the Kyrgyz flora and the steps taken by the MSB and Kyrgyz partners to protect it.
Funds are currently being sought to support both the Kyrgyz seed conservation programme and the Silk Road project.
We currently have active seed conservation projects or agreements with the following countries:
|Country||Biodiversity hotspot/Tropical forest wilderness||Institutions|
|Bhutan||Eastern Himalaya||National Biodiversity Center|
|China||Mountains of South West China||Chinese Academy of Sciences|
|Indonesia (Java and Bali)||
|Center for Plant Conservation Botanic Gardens; Research Center for Biology (both within Indonesian Institute of Sciences)|
|Indonesia (West Papua)||New Guinea tropical forest wilderness||University of Papua|
|Japan||Japan||University of the Ryukyus, Okinawa|
|Kyrgyzstan||Mountains of Central Asia||The Institute of Biotechnology; the Biology-Soil Institute; the Center of Innovative Phytotechnologies; the Botanic Garden (all within Kyrgyz Institute of Science)|
|Malaysia||Sundaland||Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute|
Mountains of Southwest China
|Nepal||Eastern Himalaya||National Agriculture Genetic Resources Center, (Nepal Agricultural Research Council (NARC))|
|Pakistan||Plant Genetic Resources Institute (Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (PARC))|
|South Korea||Korean National Arboretum|
|Thailand||Indo-Burma||Bangkok Forest Herbarium (Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation)|
|Thailand||Indo-Burma||Forest Restoration Research Unit (Chiang Mai University)|
|Thailand||Indo-Burma||Thailand Institute of Scientific and Technological Research|
|Vietnam||Indo-Burma||Plant Resources Center (Vietnam Academy of Agricultural Sciences)|