"The approach that we would use is not simply to collect seeds over various time intervals and to archive them, but in the future to raise them in a common environment comparing seeds that were collected in 2010, 2030, and 2050, for example," said Mazer. "If we found, for example, that the plants that come from seeds that were collected 50 years from now flower much earlier than those that were collected today, we could logically infer that natural selection over 50 years had favored plants, that is genotypes that flowered earlier and earlier, relative to those that delayed flowering."
Mazer explained that scientists and the public have been thrilled recently by an increase in the understanding of the value of seed banks, and in particular with the seed bank that is underway in Norway, called the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, on the island of Spitsbergen.
"However, that kind of seed bank doesn't finish the job," said Mazer. "The Norwegian seed bank is planning to preserve hundreds of thousands of varieties of agricultural plant species, but most of those samples represent only a tiny fraction of that which you would find in a wild population of a wild species." Nor does it allow for insights into the evolutionary process, enabled by the combination of seed banking and subsequent raising of plants as proposed by the "Resurrection Initiative."
|Contact: Gail Gallessich|
University of California - Santa Barbara