NParks Opens Singapore’s First Seed Bank at the Singapore Botanic Gardens
13 Jul 2019
- Visitors can learn about seeds and the science of seed storage at a new interpretive gallery and outdoor garden
- Community can contribute to conservation efforts through the Give to the Gardens programme
The National Parks Board (NParks) today opened Singapore’s first seed bank at the Singapore Botanic Gardens, expanding the Gardens’ conservation capacity in safeguarding the germplasm of threatened plant species in Southeast Asia. The Singapore Botanic Gardens Seed Bank can store the seeds of up to 25,000 plant species, approximately half the total number of plant species in the region, and support vital research into the optimisation of storage methods for these seeds.
The Seed Bank will also be a space for visitors to learn about the importance of seed storage for species conservation, as well as plant biodiversity, seed dispersal and germination, through curated programmes at a new interpretive gallery and outdoor garden. Recognising the significant role that the community can play to support the Gardens’ conservation efforts, NParks is targeting to raise S$5 million over the next 10 years through the Garden City Fund’s Give to the Gardens programme for conservation, research and education efforts at the Seed Bank.
Seed Bank bolsters the Gardens’ roles in conservation, research and education
Complementing existing seed banking efforts for agriculture and forestry by other research institutions globally, the Singapore Botanic Gardens Seed Bank strengthens the Gardens’ role in safeguarding plant biodiversity in Southeast Asia through conservation, research and education.
The Seed Bank plays an integral role in the Gardens’ multi-pronged plant conservation programme. Field exploration and collection for taxonomic and genetic research carried out by staff in the Gardens’ herbarium and laboratory help in the understanding of plant diversity in Singapore and the region. Plant species of botanical significance and conservation concern are also grown and studied in the Gardens’ living collection. The new Seed Bank enables the conservation of more genetic diversity, including wild tropical fruit and forest trees, with its capacity to store the seeds of more than double the current 10,000 plant species in the Gardens’ living collection.
Plant populations are repositories of genetic diversity, and collecting seeds for storage helps to build a valuable resource for habitat restoration and species conservation. The Seed Bank strengthens the Gardens’ capacity to insure native plant populations against threats such as disease, climate change, as well as natural and man-made disasters. Besides collecting seeds from Singapore’s forests, nature areas and parks, the Gardens will collaborate with other botanic gardens and research institutions on seed exchanges.
Beyond seed collection and storage, research is also crucial to continually optimise the seed storage procedures, and understand the physiology of different seeds of various plant species. The seeds of certain plant species in Southeast Asia, for example those of dipterocarp trees, are unable to endure the level of desiccation required for cold storage. These are known as recalcitrant seeds. Since limited studies have been done to determine which plant species produce recalcitrant seeds, the Gardens will be conducting extensive research to identify such species and define the optimal storage conditions.
The Seed Bank strengthens the Gardens’ outstanding universal value as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is therefore also important to share the science behind the Seed Bank with the community as part of sustaining efforts to inculcate ownership and stewardship for Singapore’s biodiversity conservation efforts. Visitors can learn about the importance of seed storage for species conservation through curated programmes at the Seed Bank’s new interpretive gallery. Featuring informative and interactive displays, such as seed specimens and glass windows with explanatory captions providing a glimpse into the various laboratories and rooms, the interpretive gallery at the conserved House 4 will introduce the Seed Bank and explain its importance to plant conservation and research in Singapore and the region. Visitors will learn about the seed banking process, as well as the diversity of seeds and their biology. There will also be a seminar room for public talks and workshops. An outdoor garden with seed sculptures behind the Seed Bank will provide a more intimate experience for visitors to learn about seed dispersal.
Seed Bank made possible through continued support from the community
The Gardens’ efforts in conservation, research and education would not be possible without the support from the community through NParks’ registered charity and IPC, the Garden City Fund. This includes a generous donation of $1 million from the Goh Foundation in memory of Mrs Goh Cheng Liang née Teo Sok Yong. Other donors include HSBC, Goldbell Foundation, Yokogawa Engineering Asia Pte Ltd, Alfa Tech, Kirtida & Bharat Mekani, Britesparx Design Pte Ltd and Benel Singapore. In total, over S$1.17 million has been raised to help initiate the research and education elements at the Singapore Botanic Gardens Seed Bank. Looking ahead, the Gardens aims to raise another S$5 million over the next 10 years for conservation, research and education efforts at the Seed Bank. The community can contribute to these efforts through the Give to the Gardens programme.
The opening of the Seed Bank also marks the start of the annual Singapore Botanic Gardens Heritage Festival which runs from 13 to 21 July 2019 and is part of the Gardens’ ongoing celebrations for its 160th anniversary. Special tours will be conducted at the Seed Bank during the Heritage Festival. More information on the activities, including hands-on workshops, movie screenings, concerts and exhibitions, can be found at http://www.nparks.gov.sg/sbg/whats-happening/calendar-of-events/sbg-heritage-festival-2019.