Massive Russian Seed Bank of Berries at Risk of Demolition

Photo: Pavlovsk Station, one of the world's first seed banks begun by Nikolai Vavilov in 1926. Vavilov personally collected seeds of over 200,000 plants (HuffPo)

It could be a potentially devastating loss for global biodiversity: we've caught word over at Huffington Post that the world's largest collection of fruit and berries, housed in one of the world's oldest seed banks outside St. Petersburg, Russia may be demolished later this year for a housing development, without so much as a relocation plan. Pavlovsk Station houses over 5,000 unique varieties of apples, strawberries, cherries, raspberries, currants, some of which are found nowhere else in the world. During the brutal Siege of Leningrad in World War II, rather than eat the precious collection of seeds, scientists starved to death to protect this legacy for future generations. And though we are not (yet) faced with similar circumstances, something can be done for Pavlovsk's current precarious situation while we still can.Cary Fowler, director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust, writes:

The Pavlovsk Station matters because humanity needs crops to survive. As the climate changes and new threats to existing crop varieties appear, the ones we have now need to adapt, and the diversity found at the Pavlovsk Station provides this adaptation potential for a broad range of fruits and berries. We need to grow new breeds of all kinds of crops -- grains, fruits, vegetables -- to feed ourselves and our children. To do that, we need the rich diversity of characteristics like those found at Pavlovsk. It's one of the oldest collections of fruit and berry diversity in the world, and the largest in Europe. Its strawberry collection alone contains almost a thousand varieties hailing from 40 countries.

Pavlovsk Station can't be moved. Transferring the collection to another site -- even if one were available, which it's not -- would take years.

If the demolition moves forward, the Trust will do what we can to mount a rescue expedition. But frankly, we will not be able to save much. The job is technically complicated and time-consuming, and quarantine regulations will slow the process down further.

There's more in the Independent here too.

So the best bet right now? To launch a global social media campaign - and if previous successes against big corporations like Nestle are any indicator, it may get the attention of Russian President Medvedev, who seems to have finally heeded the 'wake-up call' of climate change, after much skepticism.

Since the Russian President just joined Twitter last month during his trip to the United States and only get about 50 tweets a day, Mr. Fowler urges all of us to tweet and write in to Mr. Medvedev:

Today I'm tweeting the following to Russian President Medvedev, and I invite you to do the same:

@KremlinRussia_E Mr. President, protect the future of food - save #Pavlovsk Station! http://huff.to/pavlsk

Or, if you feel like it, try it in Russian:

@KremlinRussia Господин президент, защитите будущее сельского хозяйства - спасите Павловскую станцию! http://huff.to/pavlsk

You can also write a letter to the Kremlin here.


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Tags: Biodiversity | Conservation | Russia

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