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Conserving the Plant Diversity of the Cantabrian territory and Pyrenees (Northern Spain)

Biodiversity scenarios for the 21st century predict a significant reduction of mountain habitats and the loss of many high mountain plants due to climate change and the impact of human activity. Every degree rise in temperature could mean the loss of 10% of plant’ species and habitats such as mountains and islands may be at great risk. On top of this, some factors like mining, ski resorts, land use changes, are having a negative impact on the biodiversity of mountain areas.

The Cantabrian territory and Pyrenees are areas of high plant diversity and in particular of endemic plant life (plants only present within the Cantabrian territory, Pyrenees and neighbouring mountains) that are likely to be affected by this scenario. Studies suggest that climate change could directly threaten the biodiversity of the Cantabrian region and Pyrenees, and reduce vascular plant life by one third or even half (due to disappearance or drastic reduction of habitat).

Given this evidence, collecting and banking high quality seed collections of mountain plant species is an effective tool for ensuring the long term conservation of wide genetic diversity, providing propagation material to re-establish wild plant population and enabling habitat restoration.

The purpose of this project is to develop an ex situ plant conservation programme for the Cantabrian territory and Pyrenees. The project will cover 400 priority plant species (endemic, threatened, protected and rare) and seeds of keystone species of Habitats of Community Interest (threatened at European level).
Seeds of 400 species will be collected and stored, and germination and cultivation protocols of key species will be developed, in order to have plant material available for restoration projects and for public display in botanical gardens. In addition, plant population data will be collected that would help with monitoring their conservation status within the framework of climate change and the impact of human activity.

Scratchpads developed and conceived by (alphabetical): Ed Baker, Katherine Bouton Alice Heaton Dimitris Koureas, Laurence Livermore, Dave Roberts, Simon Rycroft, Ben Scott, Vince Smith