ing tens to hundreds of tons of seeds. Some
seed banks on this scale are emerging, such
as the Seed Warehouse of the Utah Division
of Wildlife Resources, with a storage capacity of 340 tons (22).
For policy-makers, the science to deliver
effective seed for restoration does not rely
on an expectation of open-ended funding,
as solutions found for one plant species may
apply across many other species. For example,
the discovery of smoke-stimulated germination in 1990 (23) revolutionized propagation
for thousands of wild plant species (24).
Integrating Science with Practice
Although seeds are recognized as a viable
means for accelerating plant establishment,
rarely is the source, availability, or effective
management and use of the seeds considered
(10, 13). Commonly encountered shortfalls
in seed knowledge and handling practices
that hamper restoration outcomes include a
lack of research data on the phenology of seed
development and maturation for most wild
species and the spatial and temporal variation for these factors (10, 25) that can lead
to inappropriate timing of seed collection; the
failure to document or understand the quality and viability of collected seeds at input
into the seed bank resulting in no knowledge
of the potential of the seed resource to produce plants (25); an inability to break seed
dormancy for many plant families preventing germination at the time seeds are sown
(26); the use of poor storage procedures such
as seed stored in uncontrolled environments
where humidity and temperature fluctuations
occur (26); and low seedling establishment
rates from broadcast seed (<10% of delivered
seeds establish) for biodiverse ecosystems
such as in Mediterranean environments (19,
25). Seed farming of wild species is a critical
area in need of broader recognition and rapid
development to address shortfalls in seed
supply to restoration seed banks.
Achieving effective landscape-scale restoration will need seed banks to scale-up capacity in a number of key areas: seed technology
for effective seed use and site delivery, large-scale native seed farming enterprises to generate the seed needed to reduce the impact of
seed collection on wild sources, and genetic
analysis tools to ensure provenance issues are
addressed in seed farming. Critically, it is the
integration of these research areas that is necessary to improve wild seed use in restoration
(see the chart).
Examples of research-driven improve-
ments in seed-use efficiency for restoration
are not available. However, as an example,
land areas disturbed by mining in the biodi-
verse semiarid region of the Pilbara in West-
ern Australia exceed 20,000 ha. Current seed-
ing rates for restoration in this region are 5
to 7kg/ha (27), and an average seed price
is $749 ± 65 per kg, based on the available
seed prices from commercial suppliers for
88 dominant Pilbara plant species (28) [sup-
porting online material (SOM)]. If restora-
tion research reduced the number of seeds
required to achieve plant establishment tar-
gets by 30%, this research effort would repre-
sent a reduction in seed use of ~30 to 42 tons
and a saving of $20 to $34 million in seed
purchase costs (SOM).
A Role for Botanic Gardens
Botanic gardens have the potential to contribute to global restoration outcomes through
their infrastructure, the knowledge generated by their scientifically curated plant collections, and their seed bank technological
capacity (29). With 2700 botanic gardens in
100 countries, including representation in
all of the world’s biodiversity hotspots (21),
botanic gardens have the geographical reach
and networking capability to retool for delivery of a global restoration capability (20,
30). Whereas botanic gardens promote their
seed bank collections as a viable restoration resource (20), most fall well short of the
capacity for delivering large-scale restoration.
To move botanic garden seed banks from
single-species conservation to landscape-scale restoration will require major refocusing on collection strategies, seed utilization,
and funding. For example, Kew’s Millennium
Seed Bank Project achieved its seed collection target of 10% of the world’s flora in 2009
(20, 30). But the effort is now refocusing to
expand its mandate from germplasm conservation to restoration and is planning a global
seed-based initiative through the Breathing
Planet Program for botanic gardens and local
communities to begin developing and delivering in-country restoration capacity through
worldwide partnerships (31).
Globally, communities need knowledge
on using seeds and restoring landscapes. In
the last session of COP-10, a village cattle-
man from Sudan “talked about how his fields
are drying up, his cattle are dying, his family
is suffering, and he is witnessing a continu-
ing and accelerating loss of plants and ani-
mals that provide subsistence to his commu-
nity” (32). He pleaded for answers, technical
guidance, and support that he could take back
to his community so he and his family could
cope with the impending changes to his liveli-
hood (32). Delivering effective and timely res-
toration and technology sets that build healthy
environments and sustainable livelihoods is
therefore a global issue for wild seed banks—
and none too soon if we are to stem the tide
of extinction and environmental degradation.
References and Notes
1. C. Nelleman, E. Corcoran, Eds., Dead Planet, Living
Planet—Biodiversity and Ecosystem Restoration for
Sustainable Development: A Rapid Response Assessment.
(United Nations Environment Programme, GRID-Arendal,
2. K. Bowers, http://blog.biohabitats.com/2010/10/cop10-
3. S. Cunningham, Re Wealth! (McGraw-Hill, New York, 2008).
4. D.-Z. Li, H. W. Pritchard, Trends Plant Sci. 14, 614
5. Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity,
Report of the Tenth Meeting of the Conference of the
Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD
Publication UNEP/CBD/COP/10/27, 2010); www.cbd.int/
6. R. D. Smith, G. Hawtin, in Seed Conservation: Turning
Science into Practice, R. D. Smith, J. B. Dickie, S. H.
Linington, H. W. Pritchard, R. J. Probert, Eds. (Royal
Botanic Gardens, Kew, UK, 2003), chap. 56.
7. D. Lamb, P. D. Erskine, J. A. Parrotta, Science 310, 1628
8. E. Higgs, Restor. Ecol. 13, 159 (2005).
9. P. Wehi, Ecol. Appl. 19, 267 (2009).
10. L. M. Broadhurst et al., Evol. Appl. 1, 587 (2008).
11. J. M. Koch, Restor. Ecol. 15, S26 (2007).
12. D. P. Rokich, K. W. Dixon, Aust. J. Bot. 55, 375 (2007).
13. K. N. Suding, K. L. Goss, G. R. Houseman, Trends Ecol.
Evol. 19, 46 (2004).
14. S. M. Wijdeven, M. E. Kuzee, Restor. Ecol. 8, 414 (2000).
15. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Millennium Seed Bank
Project; www.kew.org/science-conservation/save-seed-prosper/millennium-seed-bank/about-the-msb/msb-seed-count/ index.htm.
16. Gondwana Link, www.gondwanalink.org.
17. S. A. S. Omar, N. R. Bhat, A. Asem, Hdb. Env. Chem. 3,
18. Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research, www.kisr.edu.kw/.
19. M. I. Williams, G. E. Schuman, A. L. Hild, L. E. Vicklund,
Restor. Ecol. 10, 385 (2002).
20. P. Smith, J. Dickie, S. Linington, R. Probert, M. Way, Seed
Sci. Res. 21, 1 (2011).
21. Botanic Gardens Conservation International, www.bgci.org.
22. Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, Great Basin Research
Center, Seed Warehouse, http://wildlife.utah.gov/gbrc/
23. J. H. de Lange, C. Boucher, S. Afr. J. Bot. 59, 145 (1990).
24. K. W. Dixon et al., Acta Hortic. 813, 155 (2009) (ISHS).
25. W. Mortlock, Ecol. Manage. Restor. 1, 93 (2000).
26. D. J. Merritt, S. R. Turner, L. E. Commander, K. W. Dixon,
in Proceedings of the Fifth Australian Workshop on
Native Seed Biology, S. W. Adkins, P. J. Ainsley, S. M.
Bellairs, D. J. Coates, L. C. Bell, Eds. (Australian Center
for Mining Experimental Research, Brisbane, Australia,
2005), pp. 69–76.
27. BHP Billiton Iron Ore, Jimblebar-Wheelarra Hill Mine
Progressive Rehabilitation Management Plan (BHP Billiton
Iron Ore, Perth, Australia, 2006); www.bhpbilliton.com/
28. Kimseed International, www.kimseed.com.au.
29. K. A. Hardwick, Conserv. Biol. 25, 265 (2011).
30. P. R. Crane, S. D. Hopper, P. H. Raven, D. W. Stevenson,
Trends Plant Sci. 14, 575 (2009).
31. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Breathing Planet Programme;
32. K. Bowers, Rhizome, http://blog.biohabitats.
Supporting Online Material