Monday, January 30, 2012

Seed Banks and Biodiversity

A week ago, I came across an interesting TEDx talk delivered by David Milarch who heads Archangel Ancient Tree Archive, a non-profit dedicated to cloning the world's ancient trees to preserve their genetic structure. In propagating these ancient species from around the world, including giant sequoia, coast redwoods, etc., they hope to create a living library that preserves the genetic structure of these trees and help scientists, perhaps generations from now, learn about their unique qualities that have stood the test of time. One of the questions that comes up is the importance of respecting the habitat integrity of these species so that if/when they are re-planted they remain in their original habitats and not in other regions where they are not originally found.

The Archangel Ancient Tree Archive work also brings to mind other seed storage initiatives including the Millennium Seed Bank Project launched by Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in 2000 and the Svalbard International Seed Vault in Norway. These efforts underscore the importance of protecting the biodiversity of life on earth and taking action to restore the damage that has been done by saving seeds and preserving the genetic diversity of the planet. These programs also point to taking seed saving back to the local level by doing what farmers and gardeners have done for thousands of years in saving seeds. These local actions will enhance the resiliency of seed saving initiatives rather than depending solely on international mega-seed bank programs.

David Milarch's TEDx Talk:
Related Links:
Plant Genebanks: Food Security. Geoffrey C. Hawtin and Jeremy Cherfas. ActionBioscience
The Moon Trees. David R Williams, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center