What is a Conservation Collection?

Christa Horn and Joyce Maschinski, San Diego Zoo Global and Center for Plant Conservation

The primary purpose of a conservation collection is to support species’ survival and reduce the extinction risk of globally and/or regionally rare species. A conservation collection is an ex situ (offsite) collection of seeds, plant tissues, or whole plants that has accurate records of provenance, maternal lines differentiated, and diverse genetic representation of a species’ wild populations. To be most useful for species survival in the wild, a conservation collection should have depth, meaning that it contains seeds, tissues or whole plants of at least 50 unrelated mother plants, and breadth, meaning it consists of accessions from multiple populations across the range of the species. Conservation collections of seeds should have tests of initial germination and viability, cultivation protocols developed, and periodic testing of long-term viability.