Canada, USA, and Mexico have well established conservation seed-banking programmes that have contributed many collections to the Millennium Seed Bank (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 (Villaseñor, 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 the 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.