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REDBAG: The Spanish Network of Genebanks for Wild Plants

Volume 2 Number 2 - July 2005
J.E. Hernández Bermejo & F. Herrera Molina

Introduction

Spain is a privileged country with respect to the wealth of its biological diversity compared to the rest of the European Union (EU) and the taxonomic knowledge of this diversity is still limited in many cases. There are at least 8000 vascular plant species in Spain of which 1500 are endemic.  However, Spain also has the largest number of threatened plants in the EU with approximately 12 per cent with IUCN threatened categories (IUCN, 2001).

The objectives of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the CBD programme, the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (GSPC) recognises the importance of in situ conservation (CBD Article 9. Ex-situ Conservation, GSPC Target 8: ‘60 per cent of threatened plant species in accessible ex situ collections, preferably in the country of origin, and 10 per cent of them included in recovery and restoration programmes’ and the importance of networks for conservation (CBD Article 18. Technical and Scientific Cooperation, GSPC Target 16: ‘Networks for plant conservation activities established or strengthened at national, regional and international levels’ (CBD, 2003; CBD, 2005).

As in many other countries of the world, seed banks in Spain were created and developed in response to the necessity of conserving phytogenetic resources such as crops, local varieties and wild relatives.  At present, there are more than 25 seed banks mainly located in the provinces of Asturias, Badajoz, Córdoba, La Coruña, Madrid, Málaga, Murcia, Pontevedra, Valencia and Zaragoza.  These seed banks hold more than 65,000 accessions of the main crops and families of economic interest for Spanish agriculture such as cereals, legumes, vines, potatoes, tomatoes, citrus, berries or fleshy fruits. 

Simultaneously and especially during the last twenty-five years, seed banks for the Spanish flora have been developed in line with the improvement, restoration or creation of botanic gardens and measures for in situ conservation such as reserves, national parks or the implementation of recovery plans for endangered species.

The first wild-flora seed bank initiative was undoubtedly that of the Department of Vegetal Biology of the Polytechnic University of Madrid (PUM) (Figure 1). Under the direction of Prof. Gómez Campo, it was started in 1966 for the conservation of the Brassicaceae in the Mediterranean. Then, in 1971 the seed bank extended its scope to the Iberian endemic flora, at the time when two people joined its team, who later developed the Botanic Garden of Córdoba and its seed bank (the first author and Margarita Clemente). The seed bank of the PUM holds the highest number of accessions of the Spanish flora (9900).

At the beginning of the 80s, the seed banks of the Botanic Garden Viera y Clavijo in Gran Canaria and the above-mentioned Botanic Garden of Córdoba were also started. The first one now has 2200 accessions almost exclusively of the Canarian flora, and the second has 5200 accessions of plants of ethnobotanical interest, Andalusian endemic species and species of the family Cardueae. For the first twenty years of existence until 2002, the Córdoba Seed Bank was managed through several agreements with the Department of Environment of the Regional Government, and it has recently become the Andalusian Seed bank (BGVA).

The seed bank in the Botanic Garden of Valencia University was created in 1991. It now contains more than 1500 accessions mainly from the Mediterranean flora of eastern Spain (Autonomous Community of Valencia).

The seed bank in the Botanic Garden of Sóller is the same age and also specialises in the local and regional flora.  It conserves most of the endemic species of the Balearic Islands with an emphasis on the conservation of critically endangered species. It plays an essential role in the protection of the Balearic flora.

The Botanic Garden of Marimurtra in Blanes has a small seed bank specialising in Mediterranean bulbous species and a germplasm collection of the genus Androcymbium at a world level.

Other seed banks involved with the conservation of Spanish wild flora are those of the Royal Botanic Garden Juan Carlos I, Madrid and the Botanic Garden La Concepción in Málaga.

Finally, there are plans for new seed banks at the Botanic Garden of Barcelona, as well as botanic gardens being built in Gijón, Asturias (Atlantic Botanic Garden) and the University of Albacete (Botanic Garden of Castilla-La Mancha).

The Founding of REDBAG

In November 2002, the AIMJB (Asociación Ibero-Macaronesian de Jardines Botánicos) with the collaboration of the Department of Vegetal Biology of the PUM called for a meeting of all the members of the Association that manage germplasm banks and conservation programmes. The result of this meeting was the founding of REDBAG (Red Española de Bancos de Germoplasma de Plantas Silvestres - Spanish Network of genebanks for wild plants).

Membership categories

REDBAG is open to all those institutions which actively manage seed banks of wild species and other phytogenetic resources; they can be AIMJB members with seed banks or other institutions.  There are three different member categories:

1) Consolidated partners are those non-profit making institutions whose seed bank conserves and manages the plant germplasm of wild populations of the Spanish flora or the autochthonous phyto-resources, with short and medium-termed aims, appropriate facilities and methods (See Box 1 and Figure 2).
2) Consolidating partners are those institutions whose seed bank is in a development stage with a view to becoming a consolidated partner.
3) Potential partners are those institutions which are developing a seed bank or have a clear plan.  Those institutions that have a seed bank but do not belong to AIMJB are considered invited partners.

The REDBAG Objectives are to:

1) establish an efficient system of collaboration with the Central and Regional Governments to fulfil the objectives of the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (GSPC), especially those included in the Targets 8 and 16;

2) co-ordinate the development of priorities for REDBAG seed banks to avoid biogeographical and phytogenetic gaps, and share the responsibility for each objective;

3) develop and apply protocols for the management of Spanish plant germplasm, especially those related to its distribution, donation and transference, according to the current international framework of cooperation and the national and regional legal development as regards Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) i.e. the access systems and methods of sharing the benefits derived from the commercial and other utilisation of germplasm;

4) establish methods to provide information on biological characters related to reproduction and dispersal, germination tests, cultural techniques, distribution and demography, extinction risks, conservation methods, restoration programmes and the legal framework for the conservation of Spanish plant germplasm;

5) co-operate in the training of technicians for management and research in relation to seed banks;

6) provide co-ordination for international projects and seed bank networks or any other forum or supra-national framework that relates to the activity of REDBAG members;

7) foster network development by adding new seed banks to complete the biogeographical and phytogenetic map of plant diversity conservation in Spain;

8) promote joint initiatives among network members such as seed collecting expeditions, duplicate distribution, licence management, and in short, any activity that eases the work of the Network member.


The first actions of REDBAG were to:

1) elect a Board made up of four partners from the seed banks of the UPM, Gran Canaria, Valencia and Córdoba. Córdoba will act as the Secretariat;

2) promote a declaration of the Spanish Parliament fostering the creation of a Seed Bank Network committed to the conservation of the wild flora.

3) promote the signing of an agreement with the Department of Conservation (Ministry of Environment), to recognise the existence of REDBAG and to promotes its coordinated activities and ensure the national implementation of the GSPC by the Spanish Government.

The Activities of REDBAG for Agreement with the Department of Conservation (Ministry of Environment)

  • A preliminary inventory of the germplasm collections currently conserved in the seed banks of REDBAG
  • The development of a co-ordinated database leading to a complete inventory of the collections conserved in the seed banks of REDBAG
  • The design and creation of a website
  • An inventory of those species with recovery plans in the Spanish Autonomous Regions
  • The development of a proposal of priorities and plans for implementing the work of seed banks in the coming years
  • The design of a protocol related to the distribution, donation and transference of plant germplasm, within the framework of the CBD regarding ABS
  • The design of a method of seed exchange through the Index Seminum for members of REDBAG, including using the Network website•The development and publication of a manual of good practice for wild germplasm collection
  • The official approval of a system of data registration common and accessible for all members of the Network and the corresponding national and regional authorities
  • The establishment of a method of co-operation among the members of the Network that allows official approval for security measures and promotion of a duplicate system which ensures the ex situ conservation of the Spanish flora
  • The support and implementation of collecting programmes for those regions and taxa which require urgent measures for ex situ conservation
  • The organization of meetings to implement the above mentioned aims
  • The provision of information and awareness on the activities of REDBAG
  • The attendance of meetings of international networks and conventions related to the Network aims
  • The support for the Department of Conservation in meetings and commitments related to the conservation of plant diversity within the framework of the CBD and other international agreements
  • The facilitation of access and use of the phytogenetic material conserved in the seed banks of REDBAG for conservation or restoration activities by the Department of Conservation
  • The support of the conservation and restoration activities implemented by the Department of Conservation

References

CBD, 2003. Global Strategy for Plant Conservation Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity.  [http://www.biodiv.org/programmes/cross-cutting/plant/default.asp, 2005]

CBD, 2005. http://www.biodiv.org/welcome.aspx

IUCN, 2001. 2001 IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria version 3.1. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland. [http://www.redlist.org/info/categories_criteria2001.html, 2005

 J.E. Hernández Bermejo & F. Herrera Molina on behalf of The Ibero-Macaronesian Association (AIMJB) with the cooperation of: Aguilella, J.A.; Bramwell, D.; Gómez-Campo, C.; Elvira, R.; Estrellés, E.; Gradaille, J.L.; Iriondo, J. M.; Membrives, N.; Lasso de la Vega, B.; Pedrola, J.; Pérez, C.; Roca, A. & Velayos, M.

 
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