The “Sicilian Plant Germplasm Repository” of the University of Palermo: 25 years of activity in biological conservation

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Abstract

The “Sicilian Plant Germplasm Repository” was created in 1993 from the Department of BotanicalSciences of the University of Palermo (SGCR/PA) – today section of Botany and Plant Ecology of theDepartment “STEBICEF” - with the aim to preserve the genetic diversity of endemic or endangerednative plants, species of economical relevance and wild progenitors of plant cultivars. The collectionsare mostly constituted by seeds, and were recently expanded with tissues and DNA accessions.The specific tasks of SPGR/PA include the short- and long-term ex situ conservation and exchangeof seeds, the recovery of the phytogenetic heritage, the reintroduction of threatened or endangeredspecies into the wild, as well as basic research on reproductive biology and conservation strategies.Furthermore, SPGR/PA contains monitoring collections routinely used for seed quality tests uponand during long-term storage, as well as the safety “black boxes” of seed accessions from other SeedBanks. The core collection, one of the most extensive and representative ones, contains over 480 taxaspecific and infraspecific of the Sicilian vascular flora. Within this collection, there are represented38% of the existing endemic taxa and 32% of the critically endangered ones. More specifically, morethan 75% of the taxa listed among “The Top 50 Mediterranean Island Plants” are preserved in theSPGR/PA bank, with over 102 individual accessions. Additionally, the individual entries of the tissueand DNA collections are used for scientific exchange and to promote globally researches in the fieldof genetic characterization, systematic biology and phylogenetics. Moreover, reference samples, documentingand supporting published scientific researches related to taxonomy of critical species andinherent molecular characterization, are deposited and preserved in separate collections.Recently, the management of Palermo Botanical Garden and Herbarium Mediterraneum – which hashistorically and traditionally led the scientific education and research in the field of botany - has beentransferred to a newly created athenaeum museum system “SiMuA, Centro Servizi Sistema Museale”,whose main aim is to rationalize and advertise university-related museums of all disciplines, and promotingtheir fruition to a wider audience. Within this context, the fate and scientific mission ofSPGR/PA has become uncertain, and a concrete risk of losing both the biological assets and the invaluablescientific expertise and know-how built over the past 20 years has come to light.
Original languageEnglish
Pages70-70
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2018

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