Saving seeds is a means to an end, and a part of a whole.
Our Mission: Conserve the genetic resources of Oregon’s native plants for current and future generations
Storing seeds in conservation seed banks is a means to enhance the survival prospects of native plant species in the wild. Seed banks are most effective when employed as a part of a larger, integrated conservation community and society in which a wide range of approaches are employed. The irreplaceable foundation of comprehensive conservation is to manage, maintain and restore wild habitats where they occur, or "in situ." Seed banking is a type of "ex situ," or off-site plant conservation, with its own roles, values and limits.
The basic components of a complete ex situ plant conservation effort are: 1) to collect genetically representative samples, 2) to store or otherwise keep the samples alive and in good condition for extended periods of time, while at the same time learning to germinate and grow them, and when necessary, 3) to use the samples for reintroduction as founders to establish new or augment existing populations, or for other scientific investigations with the purpose of enhancing species survival in the wild.
We have been a program of Portland State University since 2011, but our work extends back over 35 years. In 1983, The Berry Botanic Garden established the first seed bank in the USA--and possibly the world--dedicated exclusively to rare and endangered plants. In 1985, the Seed Bank became a founding participating institution of the Center for Plant Conservation, which now consists of 40 independent botanical organizations across the USA.
The changing climate has created increasing uncertainty in the conditions that plants must exist within. Thus, we have begun also to collect seeds of plant species that are currently more common. These seeds can be used in the near term for ecological restoration, and in the long term serve as a hedge against uncertainty in how particular species and ecosystems will respond to global climate change.