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Ex situ conservation is the conservation and maintenance of samples of living organisms outside their natural habitat, in the form of whole plants, seed, pollen, vegetative propagules, tissue or cell cultures. [1] One of the best known examples of ex situ conservation is the keeping of endangered animals in zoos. However, there are two other major players in the ex situ conservation game, botanical gardens and seed banks.

There are over 1,000 botanical gardens are found throughout the world and are important to the conservation of fragile and endangered plants. Collectively they tend to and raise over 100,000 species of live plants from all over the world, including many rare and endangered species which are suffering in their endemic ranges. They are usually open to the public and important ways to educate the public on the plight of endangered species while displaying many beautiful plants. [2]

Svalbard outside

Outside of the Svalbard Seed Vault Source: Norwegian Government

Seed banks can be associated with botanical gardens or they can be their own organization. Their main goal is the long term storage or large volumes of seeds in case something catastrophic occurs to the natural living population. Maintaining genetic diversity is an important consideration of seed banks because it is critical to mitigating the effects of a genetic bottleneck should the need to re-colonize an area from seed arises. The best known example of a seed bank is the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. It is located 1,300 km inside of the arctic circle in the permafrost of Norway. It was developed and funded by the Norwegian government and opened in 2008. It currently houses seeds from over 4,000 plant varieties from around the world. [3]

Svalbard inside

Inside of the Svalbard Seed Vault Source: Norwegian Government

Ex situ conservation is important to maintaining plant and animal species, especially threatened populations in the event that something catastrophic occurs to the native population.

  1. https://www.bgci.org/ourwork/ex_situ/
  2. https://www.bgci.org/resources/article/0032/
  3. https://www.regjeringen.no/en/topics/food-fisheries-and-agriculture/agriculture/svalbard-global-seed-vault/id462220/

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