The European Alpine Seed Conservation Network is working together to ensure the ex situconservation of over 500 species through seed conservation, research and public outreach.
The project started in December 2015 and the first phase will run for three years until November 2018, with the participation of six plant science institutions, five of whom are based in the Alps (Austria, France, Italy, Switzerland).
Seeds are collected from priority plant taxa from sites across the European Alps, following internationally accepted collecting standards. Research is being carried out on these priority species and data is being disseminated to aid conservation and restoration activities. Alongside seed collectiong, a European alpine seed conservation network has been established to foster cooperation and collaboration and to promote the exchange of experience and ideas.
Development of an alpine seed collection plan
Seed collection planning follows the model developed by the Millennium Seed Bank Partnership (MSBP), and used by the European Native Seed Conservation Network (ENSCONET), modified for the alpine environment. In a multi-step process, the partners closely cooperated to first prioritise species by ranking them on the basis of endemicity and threat level and then to identify and select populations for collection. The planning phase enabled partners to identify which of them was best placed to collect a particular species and where their interests overlapped in relation to research species.
Implementation of the collection plan
Collection of high quality seed material and associated data from 500 plant species is being carried out over three collecting seasons. Seed collection adhered to national and international regulations and standards. Several joint field trips are planned within the network to foster close links between institutions.
Seed curation and storage
Seed collections are stored in local seed bank facilities in each of the four countries (Austria, France, Italy and Switzerland) and backed up at the Millennium Seed Bank (UK). Germination tests are carried out to assess the viability of the material and to ensure regeneration is possible.
A network of seed conservationists in the European Alps has been developed to improve local conservation initiatives and build relationships between institutions and staff working in seed conservation across the region. This network has facilitated collaboration and resource sharing, for examole by linking seed banks with universities and other research facilities. A programme of joint seed collecting trips has both forged relationships and improved local knowledge about the ecology and taxonomy of the flora across the Alps. This network has also linked to other stakeholders for biodiversity and conservation in the European Alps.
Training has been provided to staff and students through fieldwork and staff exchange. The project has also included training MSc and PhD students, whose research projects include elements of reproductive biology, germination, and/or conservation monitoring and management of threatened alpine plant species.