Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 27, Issue 5, pp 1157–1172 | Cite as

Could taxonomic misnaming threaten the ex situ conservation and the usage of plant genetic resources?

Original Paper
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Ex-situ conservation


Ex situ conservation of plant germplasm, especially seed banking, is a favourable and widely used method for the conservation of plant genetic resources (PGR). The long-term conservation of these resources is fundamental for food security and plant breeding in order to stem the losses in agrobiodiversity and to meet the global challenges that agriculture is facing. The conservation and accessibility of PGR relies on their correct taxonomic labelling and on the building of a searchable database that links ex situ collections together. In the current study, we analysed the impact of taxonomic misnaming in the two major PGR databases (Genesys PGR, EURISCO), listing accessions conserved worldwide. The aim was to understand if taxonomic misnaming issues prevent PGR conservation. We chose as a case-study seed collections of accessions of the genus Citrullus (watermelon genepool), the taxonomy and nomenclature of which have been largely revised in recent times. We observed that taxonomic misnaming greatly limits PGR conservation with only 3% of the accessions listed in the databases correctly named; moreover, 28% were affected by taxonomic errors that prevent the establishment of the accessions’ taxonomic identity, with consequences on their conservation and exploitation. The existence of the problem was also confirmed by the experimental propagation of three misnamed accessions. We suggest herein a series of actions that, put in place, could solve the extant misnaming issues in the databases and prevent their reoccurrence, allowing the correct conservation and the usability by the stakeholders of all the accessions.


Botanical nomenclature Database Genebank Seed conservation Taxonomy Watermelon 



The authors are grateful to Robert Jarrett (USDA, U.S.A), Irina Gashkova (Vavilov Institute of Plant Industry, Russian Federation), and the Millennium Seed Bank of the Royal Botanic Garden (U.K.) for donating the seed accessions. We are also thankful to Massimo Schiavi (CREA-ORL, Italy) for performing the cultivation in purity. We also thank Thomas Abeli and Valentino Ottobrino (University of Pavia, Italy) for taking pictures of the fruits and cultivated plants. We are also indebted to Giulia Ardenghi (Stradella, Italy) for the digital image preparation, and Jonas V. Müller (Millennium Seed Bank, U.K.) for the help in finding essential literature sources. We are thankful to Sarah Hanson (Brighton) for the linguistic check. Finally, we thank two anonymous reviewers for their extremely useful comments on an earlier version of the manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standard

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

10531_2017_1485_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (469 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 300 kb)


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Earth and Environmental SciencesUniversity of PaviaPaviaItaly

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