An ambitious project was recently launched aimed at reducing the loss of important and endangered plant species from Natura 2000 sites in Malta and Sicily through the use of seed banks and plant population reinforcement.

The project, entitled SimaSeed, will involve the setting up of a new seedbank in Gozo and the upgrading of two existing seedbanks at Argotti Botanic Gardens in Floriana and at the University of Catania, Sicily, respectively.

The Mediterranean basin is a hotspot of biodiversity with many species being lost or on the brink of extinction. Malta is home to over 1,100 vascular plant species, while Sicily has over 2,700 vascular plant species, of which about 20 per cent are endemic.

During the project, studies will be carried out on how to conserve germplasm and reinforce plant populations of rare and endangered species by collecting and storing seeds in seed banks as well as by growing plants in nurseries to be used for habitat restoration and reinforcement.

The project was launched last month at the University of Catania’s Botanic Gardens. It is led by the Sicilian university’s Department of Plant Biology while Argotti Botanic Gardens and the Resource Centre of the University of Malta, the Centro Conservazione del Germoplasma ‘Marianelli’, Regione Siciliana and the Ministry of Gozo are partners.

The project will also promote cooperation with other entities in Malta and Sicily to improve scientific understanding and promote greater awareness and education on the use of native plants in habitat restoration, landscaping and nursery practice.

The project is supported under the territorial cooperation agreement of the Italia-Malta 2014-2020 Interreg programme, priority Axis III – preserving and protecting the environment and promoting resource efficiency. Objective 3.1 of the agreement specifically supports efforts that contribute towards the arrest of the loss of terrestrial and marine biodiversity in the area, or that maintain and reactivate the ecosystem and protected areas such as Natura 2000 sites.


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