Cancer Poetry Project Blog The Importance of Seed Banks

The Importance of Seed Banks

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A seed bank preserves seeds to maintain genetic diversity. It can be at the global, national or community level and is a key tool in preserving agro-biodiversity for future use. For example, a seed bank can keep varieties of crop plants that are otherwise susceptible to extinction from the threat of climate change, disease outbreak or other natural disasters. These preserved plant cultivars can then be used by crop breeders to develop new varieties with desired attributes such as pest resistance, drought tolerance or nutritional quality. This link:

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A rich body of theoretical and experimental work has demonstrated the stabilizing role of seed banks for the biodiversity and eco-evolutionary dynamics of plant populations and communities2,3,4,5,6. In the lab of Professor Faist, research in arid and semi-arid rangelands focuses on examining the biotic and abiotic processes that trigger and sustain seed dormancy7.

Dormant propagules are triggered to become active again by environmental cues. These can be endogenous, such as the release of phytohormones by the plant8, or exogenous, such as physical abrasion or passage through a mammalian gastrointestinal tract9. Dormancy is therefore a key factor in determining seed-bank dynamics and in influencing a wide range of emergent patterns and behavior across scales from collections of cells to entire ecosystems.

Despite the importance of seed banks, it remains difficult to quantify their size and diversity, especially in the face of a rapidly changing world10. Many botanic gardens, arboreta and universities around the world collect native and cultivated seeds for long-term conservation and preservation. These seed samples are stored in conditions of stable humidity, constant low temperature and minimal light (Box 1).

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