Target 8: Ex situ plant conservation


At least 60% of threatened plants in ex situ collections, preferably in the country of origin, and available for recovery (restoration) programmes, with 1% in active reintroduction programmes

Contributors: L. Nkuna, A. Hitchcock, A. Rebelo, E. van Wyk, I. Johnson & D. Raimondo


South Africa has very high numbers of threatened plants (2 576 taxa). To achieve Target 8, 1 545 species need to be included in ex situ collections. However, this number is too high. Insufficient space exists within horticultural facilities in South Africa’s ten national botanical gardens to include adequate genetic representation of each species. In addition, living collections are very costly and insufficient funding and man power are available. Banking seeds is a more efficient and secure conservation option. South Africa has been working, since 2000, as part of the Millennium Seed Bank Partnership (MSBP), a programme that includes 50 countries, with the aim to bank 35% of the world’s plants by 2020. To date, 13% or 340 of South Africa’s threatened plant species have been banked. An updated agreement between the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) and Kew Gardens, the implementing agents of the MSBP, was signed in 2010, which will ensure that seed banking will continue in South Africa at least until 2015, with South Africa continuing the commitment of banking seeds until 2020.

The seed collections and related data are split into two: the original seed collections are stored at the National Plant Genetic Resources Centre (NPGRC) of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) at Roode­plaat, Pretoria and the herbaria maintained by SANBI. Duplicate material (seed collections, herbarium material and data) are stored at the Kew herbarium and in the Millennium Seed Bank at Wakehurst Place.

Living collections of threatened species are kept in pot collections in the national botanical gardens. Certain highly threatened species are maintained in stock beds, which serve to preserve as wide a genetic pool per species as possible. These are used as stock material for restoration programs.

Target 8 outcomes for 2020

8.1.     60% of threatened plants conserved ex situ.

The Millennium Seed Bank Partnership in South Africa focusses seed collecting in areas with high concentrations of threatened species; another focus is collecting species that are useful to people. Between 2000 and 2010, the MSBP in South Africa did not have a strict focus on collecting threatened species, but collected a range of different endemic and utilised species. Since 2010 the focus of the MSBP has shifted to prioritising collection of seeds from threatened species. The MSBP in South Africa aims to collect and conserve seeds of additional 1 000 (39%) threatened species by the year 2020.

8.2.     1% of species with ex situ collections active in restoration programmes.

Twenty-six threatened plant species in South Africa are currently being used in re-introduction programmes (1% of threatened plants). Work on these plants has indicated that re-introductions are resource intensive, from both a financial and human capacity aspects. However, South Africa has 21 Critically Endangered ecosystems, 86% of which occur in the Fynbos Biome. Researching re-introduction techniques for threatened plants endemic to these ecosystems is vital for their long term survival. Horticulturalists based at SANBI will continue to pilot and document re-introduction programmes in the form of restoration protocols for at least 1% of South Africa’s threatened plants.

Target 8: At least 60% of threatened plants in ex situ collections, preferably in the country of origin, and available for recovery (restoration) programmes, with 1% in active reintroduction programmes
Outcomes Activities Responsible stakeholders Timeframe
8.1. 60% of threatened plants conserved ex situ. 8.1.1. MSBP effort for seed collection focused 90% on threatened species.

MSBP staff based at SANBI to coordinate seed collection both by staff within the MSBP team and with partners, including the Botanical Society and volunteers who are part of the CREW programme.


Specialist horticulturists in SANBI’s Conservation Gardens and Tourism Directorate to coordinate further collections and manage living collections.


Annual workshop to evaluate ex situ collections progress, both seed banking and living collections, conducted.


MSBP collect and bank seed of 100 threatened species, not yet represented in ex situ collections, per annum.


Audit of species represented in living collections conducted by end of 2015, and repeated in 2017 and 2020.

8.1.2. Seed collecting capacity increased by identifying and capacitating non-SANBI botanical gardens and nature reserves.
8.1.3. Threatened species with recalcitrant seeds grown in living collections.
8.1.4. Existing gardens ex situ living collections maintained and increased through providing training, resources, direction and monitoring of progress.
8.2. 1% of species with ex situ collections active in restoration programmes. 8.2.1. Threatened species included in restoration programmes in Critically Endangered ecosystems. 8.2.1. SANBI TSP research and garden staff.

8.2.1. Ongoing


8.2.2. Protocol for documenting restoration work developed. 8.2.2. SANBI TSP research staff.

8.2.2. 2016


8.2.3. Any restoration programmes involving threatened species, those implemented by government or private landscaping companies, documented to build up knowledge base. 8.2.3. Provincial conservation authorities to identify private companies doing restoration. SANBI TSP research and garden staff to manage and serve online information on restoration. 8.2.3. Ongoing