Ola Westengen (2013) Ex-Situ Crop Diversity Conservation and the Svalbard Global Seed Vault: Assessing the Current Status



Ex-situ conservation of crop diversity is a global concern, and the development of an efficient and sustainable conservation system is a historic priority recognized in international law and policy. We assess the completeness of the safety duplication collection in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault with respect to data on the world's ex-situ collections as reported by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Currently, 774,601 samples are deposited at Svalbard by 53 genebanks. We estimate that more than one third of the globally distinct accessions of 156 crop genera stored in genebanks as orthodox seeds are conserved in the Seed Vault. The numbers of safety duplicates of Triticum (wheat), Sorghum (sorghum), Pennisetum (pearl millet), Eleusine (finger millet), Cicer (chickpea) and Lens (lentil) exceed 50% of the estimated numbers of distinct accessions in global ex-situ collections. The number of accessions conserved globally generally reflects importance for food production, but there are significant gaps in the safety collection at Svalbard in some genera of high importance for food security in tropical countries, such as Amaranthus (amaranth), Chenopodium (quinoa), Eragrostis (teff) and Abelmoschus (okra). In the 29 food-crop genera with the largest number of accessions stored globally, an average of 5.5 out of the ten largest collections is already represented in the Seed Vault collection or is covered by existing deposit agreements. The high coverage of ITPGRFA Annex 1 crops and of those crops for which there is a CGIAR mandate in the current Seed Vault collection indicates that existence of international policies and institutions are important determinants for accessions to be safety duplicated at Svalbard. As a back-up site for the global conservation system, the Seed Vault plays not only a practical but also a symbolic role for enhanced integration and cooperation for conservation of crop diversity.

Citation: Westengen OT, Jeppson S, Guarino L (2013) Global Ex-Situ Crop Diversity Conservation and the Svalbard Global Seed Vault: Assessing the Current Status. PLoS ONE 8(5): e64146. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0064146

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Published May 24, 2013 9:48 AM - Last modified Apr. 28, 2016 11:31 AM