Scientists will be garmenting their gardening gloves and sharpening their sheers as they race around the clock to collect and freeze plant DNA from around the world.
The extensive project has begun to collect the genomes of the earth’s major plant groups within the next two years and put them into deep freeze.
It aims to collect and preserve the DNA of all life on Earth within cryo-storage facilities in containers that resemble gigantic thermos-like swing bins, which can store up to 4 million samples in liquid nitrogen.
Botanic Gardens Used for Global Genome Initiative
The project may seem a little over-zealous, with only 3% of all plant life currently being stored. However scientists leading the Global Genome Initiative at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History say that they will be able to gather samples from half the world’s plant families because from botanic gardens. Most can be found within a five-mile radius of Washington DC.
Ari Novy, executive director of US Botanic Garden explained: “Botanical institutions such as ours have spent decades and in some cases centuries collecting plants. The US Botanic Garden has almost 250 families which is half the total number of plant families on the planet. That makes this project a lot easier.”
With many reports attempting to supress thoughts that the project could only be performed in an unimaginable timeframe there is still no way that it could be a simple job for a self-employed gardener, proclaiming that ‘no job is too big’, as there are around 500 plant families and over 13,000 genera within those groups.
Sixth Mass Extinction
Even with a plethora of scientists they would have to get a move on as they warn that Earth has entered its sixth mass extinction, the last such event killed the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.
John Kress (no relation to the edible herb of a similar name) interim Under Secretary for Science at the Smithsonian Institution explained how daunting, yet important the Global Genome Initiative will be. He said: “It’s not just plants – it’s plants, animals and micro-organisms.
“Everything that is alive and living in a natural habitat is now being threatened by degradation of those habitats primarily because of what we’re doing as humans.”
Felix Forest, a plant evolutionary biologist wishes to dispel some of the more sensationalist urgency to facilitate the ability to resurrect species after their extinction. He said: “This isn’t Jurassic Park – yet. But technology is moving so fast that who knows what we could do with a tube of DNA 20 years from now.”
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