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7. Assessing Populations for Collection

It is essential that a knowledgeable botanist leads the collection team and is involved in identifying the most suitable population(s) for sampling.  Choosing target populations will be up to the lead botanists and plant ecologists working at the BLM field office or other partner institutions.  An “ideal” collection will be from a large number of individuals (100+) and will contain more than 10,000 viable seeds.  Collections larger than 20,000 viable seeds are preferred; collections this large maximize the flexibility of the collection and allow for a portion of the collection be held at a second seed bank.  Maximizing the use of the collection means that:

  • Sufficient seed is available for germination and viability testing
  • Samples are available for distribution to users for restoration, education or scientific purposes
  • A substantial amount of seed can be conserved as a long-term safeguard against loss of the wild population

7a. Preliminary Site Visits

Preliminary site visits are often necessary to assess the populations, confirm the identification with the collection of herbarium voucher specimens (see Section 10), and estimate the likely harvesting date and potential seed production.  Where populations are suitable and the quality and quantity of seed is adequate, it may be possible to make collections of a number of different species from the same site. 

The following points should be considered before harvesting takes place:

  • Ensure that the population is of wild origin, not planted or cultivated.  For example, do not collect seeds of native species that were included in a seed mix as part of post fire management in areas that were burned and seeded.  Native species that were not seeded in those areas could be collected.
  • Small populations (less than 50 individuals) or those that will yield less than 10,000 viable seeds should not be collected with the expectation of seed being transferred to an in-house native plant materials development project, or returned to the collector.  Instead, collections of less than 10,000 viable seeds shall be directly transferred to the SOS National Collection. 
  • Seed development can vary within and between populations of the same species.  Monitor seed maturation and assess insect damage and empty seeds throughout the population before making the seed collection.
  • It is strongly encouraged that seed collectors return to a population throughout the dispersal period to maximize the genetic diversity of samples.  Collections taken from the exact same population may be combined into one accession (seed collection reference number) during a single collecting season.  Collectors must ensure that no more than 20% of the viable seeds are collected on any given day, and that all combined material is from the same population and uses the same seed collection reference number or accession number.  Please note that the material was collected on multiple dates on the SOS field data form.

Next: Sampling Strategy

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Last Updated: 15-Apr-2011