UZH has big plans for its seed vault


Zurich – The Zurich Seed Bank at the University of Zurich (UZH) collects, dries and stores seeds of endangered native plants in freezers. The valuable seed will later be used for reintroduction, strengthening existing populations and research.

The Zurich Seed Bank, a nature conservation project of the UZH Institute of Systematic and Evolutionary Botany, is taking action against the progressive loss of biodiversity in Switzerland. She has been collecting seeds from endangered native plants and storing them in freezers since 2021.

According to a press release, the aim of the seed vaults is to halt the disappearance of plant communities due to the destruction and fragmentation of habitats, environmental pollution, invasive species and climate change. The aim is to collect the seeds of as many vascular plants as possible that are on the Red List of endangered species in order to preserve biodiversity and genetic diversity.

Project manager Gregory Jäggli and scientific director Michael Kessler are working with a team of volunteers in the canton of Zurich to collect the seeds. They collect as many as 10,000 to 20,000 seeds per species from different locations.

With a future expansion of the team, the seeds of one species are to be collected from at least five different locations in Switzerland, as these are genetically different from each other and thus the greatest possible genetic diversity can be conserved. In addition, reintroduction projects are to be started in cooperation with eco-offices and the cantons.

A nationwide project will start as early as next year: professional collectors from all over Switzerland will harvest seeds from wild relatives of today’s crop plants for the Federal Office for Agriculture. The aim is to cross resistant genes from these wild plants into cultivated plants to make them more resistant to disease and drought. ce/mm