GENMEDA members

University of Malta, Biology Department Seed Bank (BDUM)

Country: Malta

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The Department of Biology is responsible for the teaching and research output to undergraduate and postgraduate students taking a BSc, MSc and PhD in biology within the faculty of science. Topics of research projects and scientific studies focus on the natural environment and plant biology including ecology and ethology, plant diversity, conservation biology, field biology, evolution and phylogeny, as well as plant systematics. The BDUM team participating in the GENMEDA network is responsible for the upkeep and management of the seed bank that was set up under SiMaSeed and SiMaSeed PLUS projects. It is involved in conservation projects involving the rehabilitation of degraded Natura2000 sites starting with the eradication of invasive alien plant species (IAPS) followed by transplanting of indigenous and endemic plants typical of the site.

The DBUM seed bank has contributed to conservation efforts in several ways, including seed collection and storage of rare and endangered plants, establishment of seed germination protocols, and growing of seedlings to a transplantable plantlets.  In addition, research work under the LIFE Seedforce project is also being carried out with the intention to improve the unfavourable conservation status of certain plant species. Using funding received from such projects, the procurement of specialised equipment and other laboratory upgrades help improve the methods used for preservation of seed bank accessions as well as herbaria specimen. 

The relatively young BDUM seed bank currently holds 424 accessions with 190 different taxa, and was primarily set up to conserve native flora associated with Natura2000 sites.  Once priority species are identified, fieldwork ensues to collect seeds, which are subsequently cleaned, counted, and stored in the seed bank. Species with available germination protocols online are tested for viability by carrying out germinations experiments and comparing results. For other less-researched species, an in-house germination protocol is developed. Seed collection and processing is carried out on an annual basis and for different species, depending on what is required. When transplanting is required, mass propagation of the species of interest is carried out using either in vitro or conventional methods. Subsequent reintroduction of propagated species is often carried out in conjunction with IAPS removal in selected intervention sites.

Besides serving as a repository of seeds for native plants including rare and endangered species, the established seed bank has allowed for scientific research to be carried out, such as germination studies, ecophysiology studies and interspecific/intraspecific morphometric variation. Seedlings grown from germination studies are allowed to acclimatise in growth chambers under specialised UV grow light and are then moved to a greenhouse for further study or transplanted in the wild. Research carried out through such projects has been submitted as papers for publication and also presented at several important conferences, including the following:

  • Society for Ecological Restoration Conference (Online – June 2021)
  • 3rd Mediterranean Plant Conservation Week (Chania, Crete – September 2021)
  • Society for Ecological Restoration Conference (Darwin, Australia – September 2023)
  • 4th Mediterranean Plant Conservation Week (Valencia, Spain – October 2023)
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Joseph A. Buhagiar
Project Coordinator of SiMaSeed, SiMaSeed PLUS & Life Seedforce
Department of Biology, Faculty of Science, Room 223, Biomedical Sciences Building, University of Malta, Msida MSD2080
T.: +356 2340 2586