Preserving Mexico's endemic plants

One of the most important seed banks is located in the UNAM's Iztacala Superior Studies Faculty

The seed bank preserving Mexico's endemic plants
Seed banks are essential to preserve plant species - Photo: Josh Reynolds/AP
English 09/09/2019 15:47 Newsroom Mexico City Actualizada 15:56
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A seed bank is a collection of seeds, preserved in special conditions to ensure its survival for a long period of time.

Preserving the seeds in great conditions is essential, especially when the species is in danger of extinction.

There are seed banks all over the world and Mexico is no exception. One of the most important seed banks in the country is located in the UNAM's Iztacala Superior Studies Faculty, it is also the only one dedicated to wild and native plants.

Patricia Dávila Aranda, the head of the faculty, explained that since we are losing the world's natural resources and that some plant communities are at risk, as a result of excessive logging or the construction of roads, among other reasons. For these reasons, the university adopted different conservation measures such as the creation of natural protected areas, as well as the creation of artificial reserves, including seed banks.

Natural resources at risk

In Mexico, there are between 24,000 and 30,000 flowering plants species; in order to collect their seeds, the researchers divided the country into regions and started working.

Nevertheless, not all the species can be stored in a seed bank. The only seeds that can be preserved are those called orthodox seeds, which are mostly found in arid and semi-arid areas. Orthodox seeds are small, they resist desiccation and low temperatures.

Luckily, a lot of Mexican species can be introduced and preserved in seed banks since 60% of the soil is arid or semi-arid. Dr. Ávila explained that the program “is looking for endemic species, or those with a restricted distribution, or the wild relatives of cultivated plants because if we won't protect them, they will extinguish not only in the country but all over the world.”

Currently, the FES Iztacala's Seed Bank has over 2,300 species. Behind this amazing project, experts are tirelessly working to find, collect, and store the seeds.

This seed bank was officially created in 2003 but the university started collecting seeds in 1992. The program has no commercial interests, it is aimed at scientific research and conservation.



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