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Rainforest + seedbank = conservation

According to analysis completed on the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) Global Forest Resources Assessment 2015, global rates of deforestation halved in the period 2010-2015 compared to the 1990s, but still occurs most often in Tropical Forest, with greater frequency in poorer countries1,2. Many of these countries depend on rainforest resources and the land cleared for agriculture to support their GDP. Further pressure is added to poorer countries as wealthier countries continue to demand wood and paper products obtained from rainforest, or demand supplies of products such as coffee and palm oil which has led the conversion of rainforest habitats into ‘more profitable’ plantations.

In situ (on site) conservation

Protection of rainforest habitats is of global importance and countries around the world are moving to protect areas through the establishment of reserves and national parks. This helps to protect natural undisturbed forest, and may allow damaged rainforest to recover and be rehabilitated.

The reality is however, that the establishment of reserves does not guarantee that areas will remain intact and continue to function, nor can they guarantee that species will actually be protected within them. As such, other methods of conservation are still required to ensure the survival of all species and as much of their genetic diversity as possible. 

Ex situ (off site) conservation

The conservation of many rainforest species will utilise methods that protect material away from their natural habitat, an approach known as ex situ (off site) conservation. Methods of ex situ conservation include seedbanking, tissue culture, cryopreservation, transplanting and living collections. In the case of seedbanking, for some rainforest seeds the standard methods of seedbanking will not be appropriate and require modification to successfully stores seeds. This might include maintaining collections at a higher moisture content than would normally be used, or it might include storing seeds not in the freezer (-20°C), but in the fridge (4°C). 

  1. Keenan, R., Ream, G., Achard, F., de Freitas, J., Grainger, A., Lindquist, E. 2015 Dynamics of global forest area: Results from the FAO Global Resource Assessment 2015. Forest Ecology and Management 352, 9-20.
  2. Sloan, S and Sayer, J. 2015 Forest Resource Assessment 2015 shows positive global trends but forest loss and degredation persist in poor tropical countries. Forest Ecology and Management 352, 134-145.