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Seed Bank For Endangered Species Opens

Seed bank for endangered species opens

New Zealand’s only national native plant seed bank for endangered species will be officially opened today in Palmerston North by Hon. Chris Carter, Minister of Conservation.

The MWH Seed Bank has been founded as New Zealand’s conservation insurance policy to ensure endangered indigenous species are not lost for future generations. The native seed bank is located within the rohe of Rangitaane and Iwi from Ngati Kuri will be officially depositing the first seed collected of Atriplex hollowayii - a nationally endangered coastal herb that grows on the coastal dunes of Northland.

The New Zealand Plant Conservation Network (NZPCN), with over 500 members worldwide, is the only non-governmental organisation in New Zealand solely devoted to protecting the country’s indigenous flora. The Network prepared the plan to establish New Zealand’s native seed bank and has been coordinating this project for the past four years, working in conjunction with MWH New Zealand (the seed bank sponsor), and AgResearch (who will manage the seed bank).

“While conserving our native plants in the wild remains our top priority, this seed bank initiative provides a valuable insurance policy should destruction occur of wild habitats and of native plant populations. A national seed bank provides one of the first practical solutions to the effects of climate change as we will know our plants are secure whatever happens,” said NZPCN President Ian Spellerberg.

New Zealand’s seed bank is part of a global network of banks which is an essential tool to protect the world’s flora against the effects of climate change and other environmental threats. This is particularly important in New Zealand where over 200 indigenous plant species are regarded as threatened.

The seeds are preserved by careful drying after which they are stored at minus 20°C in AgResearch’s purpose-built Margot Forde Germplasm Centre in Palmerston North.

AgResearch has expertise and experience in preserving collections of seed, and the Curator of the Margot Forde Centre, Dr Warren Williams, is a recognised international expert in the field.

“The forage plant seed held in the Centre represents a wide range of species and genera. This collection will help ensure our unique plant based biodiversity survives into the future,” says Dr Williams.

The native plant seed bank has been made possible with funding from MWH New Zealand, a 750 person, employee-owned engineering and environmental consultancy. MWH New Zealand Country Manager Andrew Caseley said, “Each year we make a Christmas conservation donation in lieu of giving client gifts. By providing establishment funding for New Zealand’s first native seed bank we are helping leave a positive and lasting legacy for future generations.”

ENDS

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