A seed conservation programme led by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew is celebrating a major milestone in its efforts to preserve “rare, threatened, and important” wild plants. As of 1 March, the Millennium Seed Bank (MSB) is said to have banked more than 2.4 billion individual seeds representing a total of 40,020 different species of wild plants.
Described by scientists as ‘Noah’s Ark for plants’, the MSB is the world’s biggest wild seed storage facility, situated at Kew’s ‘living laboratory’ and wild botanic gardens, Wakehurst, in Sussex. Within the bomb- and flood-proof building are 98,567 seed collections sourced from 190 countries and territories, across all seven continents, nine biogeographic regions, and 36 biodiversity hotspots. The MSB holds the Guinness World Records title for world’s ‘largest seed bank’.
Dr Elinor Breman, senior research leader at the MSB described the facility as an “invaluable tool for scientists tackling the global biodiversity crisis.
“The path towards banking 40,000 individual species has been both challenging and rewarding and we are confident the coming years will prove just as fruitful,” he said. “Conserving seeds at the MSB is not just about chasing numbers, it’s about increasing the genetic diversity of the collections and unlocking their potential to solve some of the biggest challenges we face today, from biodiversity loss to food security to climate change.”