Kew team doing field work in Jordan

About Kew's work - conservation and climate change

Kew’s science-based approach to conserving plant life helps to combat climate change and hence protect our future. Plants have an essential role to play in mitigating the effects of climate change because they take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. Therefore, if forests are destroyed by burning, then carbon dioxide is added to the atmosphere. Deforestation currently accounts for about one fifth of the world’s carbon emissions.

The size and diversity of Kew’s collections (including over seven million preserved plant specimens) are vital in understanding the way plants are distributed around the world, and how this might change. Kew is also leading UK efforts to implement the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation.

One of Kew's most significant conservation initiatives is the Millennium Seed Bank Partnership. This ambitious project aims to secure the safe storage of 25% of the world’s plants by 2020, targeting species and regions most at risk from climate change and the ever-increasing impact of human activities. This conservation work is helping to increase the life chances of plants around the world, and we're inviting you to help by adopting a seed or saving an entire species at the Millennium Seed Bank.

Other vital conservation work at Kew includes compiling conservation assessments of 7,000 plant species at high risk of extinction. Vegetation surveys using GIS (Geographical Information Systems) and mapping techniques are also used to help improve land use, and reforest or improve degraded lands. An example is Kew’s work in Madagascar, where extensive mapping is helping to prioritise essential conservation efforts. Madagascar is home to an estimated 10,000-12,000 plant species, over 90% of which are found nowhere else on earth.

The trees and other plants at Kew Gardens and Wakehurst also provide valuable information about our climate and so provide an early warning of the effects of climate change. For example, we study the changes in plant life cycles over time (called phenology). Each year, scientists monitor and record the flowering dates of 100 native and exotic plants at Kew Gardens. Recent signs of change include a shift in the average flowering date of daffodils (Narcissus pseudonarcissus) and hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna). In the 1980s daffodils commonly flowered around the 12 February, but more recently this date has shifted to the 27 January, 16 days earlier.

Get involved - Adopt a Seed, Save a Species

We have successfully banked 10% of the world's wild plant species and we have set our sights on saving 25% by 2020.

Without plants there could be no life on earth, and yet every day another four plant species face extinction. Too often when we hear these kind of statistics there is little that we can do as individuals, but thanks to Kew's Millennium Seed Bank partnership and the Adopt a Seed, Save a Species campaign there is something that you can do to ensure the survival of a plant species.

Adopt a seed for just £25 | Save a plant species outright