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Wild germplasm conservation key for the nation's sustainable development, May 11, 2022 Adjust font size:

It is necessary to review and summarize the progress in wild germplasm preservation in the build-up of national plan of action for the conservation and development of wild germplasm in China, Li Dezhu, professor of Kunming Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), lately advocates in an article published on Bulletin of Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Li points out in their article “Progress and Prospect of Wild Germplasm Conservation,”  genetic resources are important strategic resources for the national interest, security, and sustainable economic and social development of the country. With their great potential in bio-industry applications, wild germplasm has received global attention,  and should be incorporated into the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework and national plans of action for wild plant preservation. “With the advances in biotechnology, germplasm has become an important strategic resource of a country and a measure of comprehensive national strength that determines national sovereignty and security,” Li says. 

In this paper, Li and colleagues defines "germplasm"as the genetic resources with vitality or reproductivity. With the rapid development of modern agriculture and biotechnology, using germplasm to improve the traits and qualities of animals and plants provides potential solutions for major problems in food, health and the environment sectors. But with the intensification of anthropogenic activities and climate changes, the habitats of many wild animals and plants have been destroyed. Wild germplasm is now facing an unprecedented crisis that threatens the sustainable development of human society. Therefore, it is necessary to develop proper germplasm conservation strategies and to strengthen the protection and utilization of germplasm and the construction of seed bank. 

The paper mentions that in situ and ex situ strategies are commonly used for wild germplasm conservation. “Theoretically, in situ conservation is the best strategy as it preserves not only the germplasm but also its ecosystem, habitat, and species interaction, and maintains ecosystem services. However, with the intensifying human activities and global changes, in situ conservation suffers from problems like insufficient protection area, inadequate capacity, and the absence of key species in protected areas. In this case, ex situ conservation can be an alternate for the preservation of wild species,” Li explains. “Conservation of wild plant germplasm by seed banks with freeze-drying technique is considered to be the most cost-effective method of ex situ conservation. For animals, frozen sperm/embryos or cryopreserved primary cells isolated and cultivated from endangered species can also be used for germplasm conservation.”

China has achieved remarkable progress in the infrastructure construction and preservation of wild germplasm. As a party to the Convention on Biological Diversity, China has paid great attention to biodiversity conservation since the 21st century, and established the China National Committee for Biodiversity Conservation. China has also set up the medium- and long-term strategic goals, delineated priority regions for biodiversity conservation, and determined a series of priority areas and actions for protection. “Since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party, China has included ecological civilization construction in the national development plan, proposed the vision of building a Beautiful China, and legalized the management of biodiversity. The government issued a series of regulations, established a number of conservation facilities, and promoted the sharing of resources and information,” Li indicates.

In Li's opinion, China has developed the management systems and measures for germplasm conservation, enacted and revised laws, policies and regulations, and established the management and conservation systems for wild germplasm as an integrated effort to mainstream biodiversity conservation. Biodiversity cataloging is in progress, which provides basic data for the conservation of wild germplasm. China is also promoting both in situ conservation and ex situ conservation, and is building major projects and platforms for germplasm conservation. “Resources have been integrated and platforms have been constructed for a shift to openness, sharing, and specific services,” Li writes. 

The paper suggests that it is crucial to develop China's national strategy of wild germplasm preservation by improving the top-down design and overall planning. The Germplasm Bank of Wild Species of the Chinese Academy of Sciences is a platform for scientific research and strategic resource reserve. “The bank aims to enhance the ability of China to implement international conventions to win the initiative in participating or leading international plans, and to provide systematic consultation and a decision-making basis for industry departments and local governments through the enrichment of physical objects, data, and technologies. Therefore, the planning of wild germplasm collection and preservation should be continued on this basis,” Li continues. “For the resources with relatively mature conservation theories and technologies and remarkable protection performance, it is necessary to stabilize and enhance the capacity of facilities. For the resources that cannot be preserved on a large scale due to technical barriers, active planning and gradual promotion are needed to establish a quantitative advantage through long-term accumulation.”

Li's other suggestions include enhancing the survey and collection projects of wild species and the evaluation of germplasm traits, enforcing and implementing laws and regulations on biological resources protection, promoting cooperation and joint work plans on germplasm management and regulation enforcement, building talent team to strengthen the management and operation of germplasm facilities, increasing the input on fundamental research and the development of technical standards, and raising the public awareness on germplasm conservation through training and citizen-science programs.