The ex situ conservation of plant species is a challenge for all signatories of the Convention on Biological Diversity to meet. In Italy, all conservation-related issues are supervised by the Ministry for the Environment and Protection of Land and Sea, but so far no national plan has been drafted, let alone funded, for ex situ plant conservation. As a contribution towards the establishment of a scientifically based policy, a national project has been launched, under the coordination of the Botanic Garden of Palermo. In its framework, the Botanic Garden of Pisa is developing a set of criteria for assessing Italian ex situ collections of threatened plant species. The criteria will be applied to datasets obtained by the Italian seedbanks through questionnaires. Requested data include resources and procedures, documentation systems, facilities and accessions. The expected results consist of the production of printed or electronic material concerning a) the technical-scientific profile of the Italian seed banks and of their collections; b) the ecogeographic profile of seed collections of selected species and c) the evaluation of the method used for gathering and analysing data. The project is currently under way and the results are due by September 2010. The documents and protocols which will be produced within the project will enable a stronger interaction of the Italian seed banks with other national and European seed bank networks.
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