Israel Plant Gene Bank
Agricultural Research Organization ARO
A Study of the Preservation and Seed Germination Mechanisms of Wetland Flora
For the past decade, the Israel Gene Bank of the Volcani Institute has worked on ex-situ conservation of rare and endangered plants species. Their seeds are collected, stored, and kept as a reserve stock of seeds for future generations. These preserved seeds are also part of a long-standing joint project between the Gene Bank and the Israel National Parks Authority to reintroduce species to the wild.
Conservation begins with the deliberate collection of seeds from the wild by expert botanists. The seeds are then cleaned and dried in preparation for long-term preservation. After the seeds have undergone the necessary processes, they are frozen at low temperatures in the unique and dedicated Gene Bank facilities. This type of preservation is used worldwide for a wide range of seeds that are defined in the scientific literature as orthodox seeds. Aquatic plants, however, are mostly not included in this category and cannot maintain long-term viability when they undergo the usual process of drying and freezing.
The Red Book defines 62% of Israel’s aquatic plant species as endangered. Although aquatic plants constitute only 1.5% of the total flora found in Israel, a full 21% of the plants that have become extinct in Israel are aquatic. We therefore believe that the ex-situ conservation in the Gene Bank of the variety of Israeli aquatic plants is of paramount importance, as is the case with other rare plants in Israel, to ensure their long-term survival and to create a supply of seeds for the reintroduction of the plants to the wild if necessary.
The long-term preservation methods for seeds that are not defined as orthodox are not precisely known. Some species can be conserved for one year, from the time of collection until planting the following year; these methods, however, are not included in the aforementioned description. The conservation methods laid out by the Millennium Seed Bank in Kew, England for Israeli aquatic plants defined as orthodox species were found to be not viable and the plants lost their viability one year after undergoing the conservation process.
It is clear that we must learn and fully comprehend the correct mechanisms for long-term preservation of aquatic plant seeds to ensure that the Gene Bank can create a reserve of seeds for future use if necessary. We must also understand the germination methods for these species to examine the viability of the seeds under different preservation methods.
In a two-year cooperative program with the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, we are examining different protocols to retain the viability of different Israeli aquatic plants in the Gene Bank facilities. After the Gene Bank establishes proper preservation methods, it can expand the number of species that it surveys and preserves and start an ex-situ collection of endangered and rare Israeli aquatic plants.