REDBAG: The Spanish Network of Genebanks for Wild Plants
Volume 2 Number 2 - July 2005
J.E. Hernández Bermejo & F. Herrera Molina
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).
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:
The REDBAG Objectives are to:
The Activities of REDBAG for Agreement with the Department of Conservation (Ministry of Environment)
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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