Conifer Ex-situ Conservation
- Living collections can protect species from becoming extinct in the wild and can be used for restoration programmes.
- They also provide an opportunity for research, public education and engagement.
Ex-situ conservation programmes are usually additional to in-situ measures and may also be undertaken as a precautionary measure before species go extinct in the wild.
Ex-situ conservation of plants may involve a range a methods, including seed banking, cyropreservation or through the establishment of living collections ("living gene banks"). Ex-situ programmes may be locally, regionally or internationally based. No single method or approach is applicable in all circumstances or provides an answer to all problems.
Seed banking usually allows for the largest amount of material to be conserved in the smallest space for the longest time. However, not all seeds are suitable for this approach - seed may not be produced in sufficient quantity, it may be recalcitrant (unable to survive drying and freezing) or its viability in storage declines over relatively short periods. In these cases living collections need to be established away from the threats and in areas where the plants can be safely and securely grown over varying lengths of time. Such collections may take the form of dedicated, forestry style, monospecific plantations or they may be integrated into a range of other settings.
We use a multidisciplinary, multi-methodological approach to ex-situ conservation that primarily focuses on the establishment of a network of safe sites mostly located in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Curently we have 170 sites with 13000 plants representing more than 150 threatened taxa. The network is also used for the ex-situ conservation of the associated species, some of which are also threatened. Recently we have pioneered the use of hedges as a way of of conserving a large number of genotypes in relatively small areas.
Key contact: Martin Gardner
Ex-situ conservation involves the protection of a species outside of its natural habitat, usually because the threats are so great that the species would otherwise become extinct in the wild.