A group of plant evolutionary biologists have been awarded $1.2 million to create the nation’s first seed bank specifically designed to allow investigation of how plants respond to environmental change over long periods of time.  The project, called Project Baseline, is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) Division of Environmental Biology.

According to the award abstract: “This project will create a planned collection of seeds that will allow future studies of evolution in response to global change.  With this project, we will create a seed ‘time capsule’ that will allow future biologists to dissect the genetic basis of evolutionary change.”

Unlike other seed repositories, Project Baseline will not be used to restore lost biodiversity.  Instead, the seeds will be collected along with environmental and climatic data, so that five, ten, or fifty years researchers will be able to study how these plant species have evolved in response to drought, climate change, and other factors.

Project Baseline will collect seeds from 80 plant species throughout the United States.  These seeds will be stored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Center for Genetic Resources Preservation for use by future evolutionary biologists.