The Pavlovsk Experiment Station and its living plant collections in Russia have been threatened by plans to convert the facility into commercial development. A Russian court had rejected pleas to halt a planned land auction. However, following international expressions of concern, the facility has received a temporary reprieve. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev recently intervened in the matter and ordered a review of the proposed redevelopment plan. This has resulted in a delay of the land auction until October. Meanwhile, an independent, international commission will be established to assess the value of the plant collection. The station houses Europe’s largest collection of fruits and berries. More than 90 percent of the collection is reportedly found in no other research collection or genebank.
The American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) and the Ecological Society of America (ESA) recently pressed for the preservation of the station’s genetic resources. In a letter to international and United States policymakers, AIBS and ESA drew attention to the station as an irreplaceable resource for humanity. The groups further warned that the loss of the genetic information held in the collection would reduce options for adaptation to future plant diseases, environmental changes, or the need for increased agricultural productivity.
AIBS and ESA also called attention to the threats facing natural science collections around the world due to lack of funding, loss of technically trained staff, and inadequate protection against natural disasters. The two scientific societies recommended that governmental and non-governmental organizations that fund scientific research increase investments in the physical and human infrastructure of living and non-living natural science collections. “Scientific collections should not be sacrificed for short-term economic gains nor allowed to slowly degrade by lack of funding. It is imperative that governments around the world recognize the value of these collections and act accordingly,” warned AIBS and ESA. To read the joint letter, visit http://www.aibs.org/position-statements/20100916aibsesa_statem.html.
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