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Assessing the conservation value of ex situ collections

21 March 2012

Target 8 of the GSPC calls for at least 75% of threatened plant species to be in ex situ collections …. and at least 20% available for use in recovery and restoration programmes.

In order for ex situ collections to be suitable for use in conservation and restoration work, they must be of known origin and be genetically representative of the species being conserved.  Although the extent to which existing ex situ collections are genetically representative is currently unknown, a recent study by BGCI on Zelkova ex situ collections showed that many of the collections consisted of relatively few individuals, the collections were frequently of unknown origin and many had inadequate documentation. 

In order to assess the genetic diversity of ex situ collections and compare this with wild diversity, a new project has been initiated by BGCI and the Botanical Garden of Ghent University.  The project will focus on selected species of three unrelated Angiosperm groups – Hydrangea, Magnolia and Cactaceae.

The aims of the project are to:

  • apply genomic tools to enable rapid characterization of genetic variation in natural populations and ex situ collections of the selected species;
  • compare genetic diversity between natural populations and ex situ collections of the selected species;
  • develop specific conservation action plans for the species under consideration;
  • develop general guidelines and a protocol on acquiring accessions for ex situ collections, to be used by collectors and botanical gardens worldwide, in the framework of Target 8 of the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation.

The project will build on on-going work being carried out on Red Listing of Hydrangea and Magnolia and will use BGCI’s PlantSearch database as a source of information on ex situ collections of the selected species.

Further background information is available in an article published in BGjournal Vol 9(1). Click here to download a pdf of this article.

Further information about the project is available from the project leader:

Marie-Stéphanie  Samain (email

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