16 Oct 2009:
Kew Gardens Seed Bank
Has Collected 10 Percent of Plant Species
A repository created by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, has collected nearly 10 percent of the seeds from the world’s estimated 300,000 seed-bearing plants
, completing the first phase of an ambitious plan to preserve the seeds of all the species threatened by human development and climate change. The
final seeds added in the project’s opening phase came from an endangered pink banana — Musa itinerans — favored by Asian elephants. To date, the Kew seed bank has collected 1.6 billion seeds from a total of 24,200 plant species. The next phase of the project aims to preserve seeds from 75,000 species by 2020. The seed bank has already been used to revive threatened species, including replanting a shrub, the shiny nematolepis, whose only known remaining plants were destroyed in massive Australian wildfires earlier this year. Scientists estimate that as many as 200,000 of the world’s seed-bearing species
could eventually be at risk from rising temperatures and human encroachment on the natural world. The seed bank, which opened in 2000, stores the seeds in super-cooled, underground vaults in Sussex.
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Photographer Robert Wintner documents the exquisite beauty and biodiversity of Cuba’s coral reefs, which are largely intact thanks to stifled coastal development in the communist nation. View the gallery.
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The Warriors of Qiugang
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A three-part series Tainted Harvest
looks at the soil pollution crisis in China, the threat it poses to the food supply, and the complexity of any cleanup. Read the series.