The preservation of Germplasm had an important star with Nicolai Vavilov (1930), who was a Russian scientist and member of legislation organisms in his country. His expeditions to the “New World” were ordered to find new resources for improvement of crops. Vavilov identified eight origin centers for diversification of crops in the world, based on the genetic diversity of wild relatives of cultivated plants. The comprehensive region from south-southeast Mexico to Panama, named as Mesoamerica, Vavilov said that important crops had their origin as cultivated plants in this part of the world, like Corn, Cotton, Henequen, Papaya and another 62 species. In his words “This area as diversity center have a surprising concentration of species and varieties of cultivated plants…an important part of plant resources of the world have their origin in this part of America”.
Germplasm Banks has been created to preserve biological material with the biodiversity conservation in long term as main objective, which means to protect material alive that should be useful to be reproduced in the future to survive at destructive events which could be hard natural events or any others as consequences of human activities.
We know that is crucial to preserve plant diversity, cultivated and wild plants in all the levels (genes, individuals, populations, species or ecosystems), and unavoidable to maintain or restore ecological equilibrium especially in modified ecosystems while is producing all the products required by human societies.
The first germplasm bank in Mexico was stablished in 1940 year by National Institute of Forestry Research (INIF) in south Mexico City, and focused in woody resources. In the same decade was created the International Center for Corn and Wheat (CIMMYT), close to Mexico city, thanks to the collaboration between the Rockefeller Foundation and the Mexican federal government; the main goal has been to do research to create varieties for high production to solve problems of hunger in the world.
In 1980 the Agriculture University Chapingo located in State of Mexico start a germplasm bank seeds for traditional food systems (as Milpa is), and in this days have collections preserving seeds which have a high importance for agriculture.
In 2012 was created the National Center for Genetic Resources in Jalisco state, under the Agriculture and Rural Development Department, focused for animal and plant resources as well as other organisms as fungi, important all of theme for agriculture.
There is another Bank of seeds created in 2003 by The School of Superior Studies of National University also in Mexico State, focused to species of dry lands as Cactaceae family.
Faced to this institutional context and considering the Yucatan Peninsula has unique environmental conditions with also an ancestral Mayan culture alive, the Research Center (CICY) formally open up in 2013 as the Germplasm Bank of Yucatan plant resources, located into the Scientific Technological Park, in Yucatan Peninsula (PCTY).From 2021 rename as Regional Laboratory for the Study and Conservation of Germplasm
In 2001 a group of directors of some CONACYT Research Centers decided to do an effort to integrate a volume describing all the biological collections into those centers, so they called “Biological collections in CONACYT Research Centers” and was published in 2004. In that way the collections gain a better statement as scientific value and including a better physical space. Were also a reflect of the contribution of those collections to science frequently linked to ancestral local cultures as an opportunity to contribute through scientific research to sustainable development.
In 2009 some researchers in CICY decided to create a project to stablish a germplasm bank, today Regional Laboratory for the Study and Conservation of Germplasm, focused to the conservation and management of biological diversity with special interest on agro ecological, medicinal and forest resources in Mayan area. Was well received so was supported financially by CONACYT and other federal government departments (SEMARNAT) and Yucatan State (SIIDETEY). So was a summation of efforts in order to contribute to coordinate the scientific activities in Yucatan.
Regional laboratory for the study and conservation of germplasm-CICY since 2013 with 7.8 hectares in their own terrain was opened. The main building have labs, six freeze chambers, with controlled temperature and humidity. In order to develop different research projects we have laboratories and basic equipment for Genomics, Morphophysiology, Phytochemistry.
Changes in land use and altered disturbance regimes have resulted in biodiversity loss with lasting effects on vegetation dynamics, which can cover up and interact with the impacts of climate change. These phenomena have increased dramatically in recent decades, and there is a possibility that they will cause greater effects in the coming centuries. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, society can establish adaptation and mitigation strategies. Some of these are germplasm banks, botanical gardens, among other methods of Ex situ conservation, in conjunction with community-based natural resource management.
Around 2300 species of vascular plants are recorded in the Yucatan Peninsula, of which 200-260 are considered to be endemic. Ecosystem conservation is not sufficient to address threats to natural populations. Germplasm banks will make it possible to have native seeds available in the long term for sustainable use, research, ecological restoration and education.
Freeze chambers.- We have two collections of orthodox seeds (those that tolerate dry and low temperature), cultivated and wild species. Those seeds represent useful species of the Mesoamerican flora and of the Mayan area, with special attention on those edible, medicinal, wild native, domesticated or cultivated and their wild relatives as well as those endemic and endangered, with any risk category (Red book of IUCN and other as the National Official Normative). With same interest we have some seeds of local crops and undercrops produced in Milpas. As a complementary collection we have a xiloteque representing 81 species of woody plants.
Plots with plants.- Around the building we have plots with nine collections of useful plants and also two with historical interest based in the sacred Mayan books Chilam Balam and Popol Vuh.
A botanical garden.- In another 2.9 hectares we have a Botanical Garden (BG) with another 21 collection of plants arranged by the main local use and a nursery.
The Regional laboratory for the study and conservation of germplasm of CICY, with the 33 collections (well described below), have a staff doing scientific research focused to preserve plant material in long term with particular interest in the species of the Mayan area and / or with some economic importance locally. We generate the knowledge required to reach the preservation in long term and contribute to the sustainable development.
In the present and in the immediate future, development and wellbeing depend on we can take urgent actions to preserve natural resources (water, soil, biodiversity); so to use responsibly and in a sustainable way, botanical gardens have an important role through social communication of science and offering the opportunity to be in contact with natural resources. In that way we are according to our compromise to contribute with Millennial Development Goals.
The importance to have a botanical garden associated to a the Regional Laboratory for the Study and Conservation of Germplasm is mainly due to our collections could be renewed and can be extended to another botanical gardens as well as to maintain an interchange program while in nursery we can reproduce as background for especially important accessions. This botanical garden has been stablished in almost 3 hectares in two plots. The vegetation around is very wild so additionally we have enough flow of wild animals, local fauna doing as pollinators and spreading seeds which is crucial to maintain genetic diversity.
Even is a young botanical garden with only seven years old, we have there 21 collections (described below), however we consider is an important biological patrimony and for sure an important attraction in the Scientific Park (PCTY). All the collections have at least one of the uses as follow: scientific research, preservation, education, public communication of science.
The mega biodiversity that is characteristic of Mexican flora as we mentioned before, Yucatan Peninsula have some distinctive environmental conditions: is, geologically, the youngest part of the country which means there is almost no soil and the main component is calcium, thus there is very low fertility, basically. Furthermore, the terrains where is stablished the Regional Laboratory for the Study and Conservation of Germplasm is the driest part of the Peninsula.
The natural vegetation. The Scientific Park (PCTY) is located into the Deciduous dry and spiky short forest with candle cactus (Flores & Espejel 1994) also named as “calichal” (Duno 2017). This vegetation is associated the weather (BS) and the even active natural processes creating new soils which mean we have an interesting ecosystem especially for botanist.
Flora. We are still working in a floristic inventory, including the adjacent piece of land with natural forest well-preserved, indicating 250 species of vascular plants with some families well represented. Fabaceae (30), Euphorbiaceae (14), Rubiaceae and Convolvulaceae (9), Asteraceae, Bromeliaceae and Malvaceae (8). Some target species are 41 Endemic, one Endangered and another one under Special protection.
The plots with our collections are into the wild vegetation where our priority is to maintain native species. The plants introduced, native from other parts of Yucatan Peninsula results as a natural enriched forest, thus around 85% we consider are native plants. In the Scientific Park 56 species are the most common most legume: Lonchocarpus yucatanensis, Piscidia piscipula, Mimosa bahamensis, Caesalpinia gaumeri; also from other families Croton glabellus, Diospyros tetrasperma and Neomillspaughia emarginata. Legumes make an important work to enrich soil fertility.
That is why we maintain an enough healthy ecosystem for a lot of wild animal species also. In that way, in our terrain we permit natural cycles and natural processes as natural feed chains or pollination, between others. Thus we contribute to maintain the crucial genetic diversity through natural relationships created along thousands or may be millions of years. This Regional Laboratory for the Study and Conservation of Germplasm has been defined as an Environmental Unit for Biodiversity Conservation.
To preserve, reproduce and having available plant germplasm of tropical Mexico especially from those species related to Mayan culture.
To be a regional, national and international leader, for the conservation of tropical Mexico plant species, especially for those into Yucatan Peninsula and related with Mayan culture.
The staff actually have three researchers and two associated researchers all of them with a PhD degree in different disciplines (Biochemistry, Ecophysiology, Pharmacological chemistry, Ecological management and Botany of useful plants). We are working hard to develop an innovative model for a Regional Laboratory for the Study and Conservation of Germplasm, which is having seeds as usual, but also having plants in different collections and a botanical garden associated as an important part of our regular conservation programs.
As staff we are three researchers and two associated specialized researchers, all of them with doctoral degree, obtained in different institutions and precedent from different parts of the country. In this laboratory we have two main distinguish issues:
- We have germplasm conservation Ex situ which includes in one side the biodiversity of Yucatan Peninsula and in another side we have seed as the characteristic collections in freeze chambers as our more appreciated treasure. We also include here the preservation In vivo and the Crio-preservation.
- The preservation of the plant material in field collections (In situ and In vivo) and we include here our Botanical Garden and the special collections.
The preservation of seeds in freeze chambers, linked to collections of plants around our buildings as well as the associated interest to preserve beside the biocultural patrimony, is certainly an innovative model of biodiversity bank for the world level.
Regional Laboratory for the Study and Conservation of Germplasm of CICY is distinguished by some characteristics and functions. Furthermore with a botanical garden associated we have six forms to preserve in long term as follow: Ex situ as seeds, plants, In vivo collections, cryo-conservation and in cultivated plots as family farming. Ex situ preservation indicates to preserve germinal material in long term representing species out of the natural environment while In situ refers to preserve natural environments and biological species into the natural distribution area.
Seed Bank. We have collections of seeds in freeze chambers with low temperature and low humidity to preserve germplasm Ex situ which is the most common way in every Regional Laboratory for the Study and Conservation of Germplasm (GermoLab). The seeds that can tolerate these particular conditions we called “orthodox seeds”. Most of tropical species even in our days requires much more scientific research to determine this condition.
Field collections. We have 31 collections of plants organized according with uses (edible, woody, medicinal, fiber, etc.) taxonomic groups (as cycads), life form (palms) or representing a particular ecosystem (dune, dry tropical forest or deciduous seasonal forest). We have represented species that their seeds do not resist the storage in freeze chambers in long term.
In vitro collections and cryo-conservation. We are working hard in this days to start as soon as possible with a specialized laboratory as a warranty for preservation especially for the plant material that we want to avoid an eventual lost.
Family farms as collection. Through collaborations with some Mayan communities, we follow closely the selections of seeds that small farmers make every year. Furthermore we have a punctual registration of traditional knowledge associated. We have the possibility to get fresh seeds from human selection every year.
In situ conservation. We have been focusing some efforts to rescue some local species, some as endemic and another as threatened. In 200 m2 we planted some of this individuals reproduced from seeds as successful example for restoration. Is important to notice that around 70% of our collections In vivo are natural vegetation. These collections are also an opportunity to do research to determine if their seeds have tolerance to storage in freeze chambers in long term (recalcitrance).
As we mentioned before we are preserving orthodox seeds and plants, wild and cultivated also including wild relatives, most of them related to Mayan culture as well as some others endangered. We have selected material by small farmers (as corn), others improved by breeding (coconut) and some henequen wild plants. This rich genetic pool represents a great diversity in molecular level and includes species important for ecology, economy, ethnology and culture.
We have in our collections, some species which came from different parts of Mexico or from other continents, and have been introduced to Yucatan Peninsula in different moments of the history, however in our days they are important in regional culture. Those exotic plants, including some ornamental trees, increase our genetic pool in the GB and our Botanical Garden. After nine years, is important to note that, most of our plants have been adapted to the very particular environmental conditions in the PCTY as we mentioned before. We have a database for every particular collection.
Additionally, due to 80 % of the plants in our plots are native from Yucatan Peninsula, the natural biodiversity is maintaining thanks to the relations flora-fauna as pollination, feed, spread, etc. in natural conditions.
In our collections we have been included a few more than 600 species and 6700 plants, organized on scientific criteria and their utility for human societies, environmental adaptations, by natural distribution of phylogenetically related, or cultural criteria. That is why some species are represented in more than one collection (more than one plot) and in that way we expand the possibility to represent better the genetic contents as a population. Our collections are described as follow. This includes the terrain rounding the main building of BG, and also the land for the Botanical garden, both of them separated only by 200 meters.
Agave fibers and mescal (GermoLab). We have a special selection of plants form cultivated plots and others from the wild, representing 5 species and 67 different locations from central west Mexico and from Yucatan State. (66 , 67).
Coconut (GermoLab). This represents ecotypes and some varieties created by CICY for improvement through pollination breeding. This collection represents also the social impact and collaborations with commercial plantations working together to collect new data about productivity, adaptation, resistance, etc. (85 , 86).
Medicinal plants (GermoLab). We have around 70 species represented, which are those used in traditional Mayan medicine daily even in our days. Some of them are used as combinations making a special formulation as a particular cure which is objective for studies in our pharmacongnosy lab. (63, 64, 65).
Woody plants (GermoLab). We have by now 41 species represented, however we want to preserve around 150 species that we know are used daily in Yucatan Peninsula. (51, 52, 53).
Yucatecan Wood trees (BG). We have a collection of 24 species, some of them with spectacular flowering. About 30 tropical species provide high quality wood. The main goal of this collection is to preserve germplasm from wild populations (high genetic diversity) considering the natural forest we are losing. In Yucatan 30 species have specific uses as the “granadillo”, “pucté” or “caoba” (mahogany). (54, 55, 56).
Xiloteque (GermoLab). Is an attached collection of wood samples representing 81 traditionally used species in Mayan area, in order to show the color, and other visual characteristics which are important for marketing, furthermore is a guide to visualize all the species that we should collect seeds in short future and work for their conservation in long term. 10.
Edible plants (GermoLab). We have a collection of 34 species with edible parts as fruit, leaves, root, etc. Around 70 species are native in Yucatan Peninsula, used as human food and without any regular reproduction and occasional cultivation. (57, 58).
Fruits, wild and cultivated (BG). Here we have a special collection of 50 species with edible fruit. Some of them were introduced in America from other continents as the case of Citrus genus. We have many other used only locally which are important to preserve as resources with high potential. (60, 61 , 62).
Economic botany (BG). This collection shows the economic value of different categories of use to elaborate different products for human being as drinks, spice, woody, glue, ornamental, ritual, handcrafts, green fodder, etc. This collection helps to remember about the fact that plants are base for ecosystems as well as for productive chains, as the basemen for sustainability of any country.(73 , 74, 75).
Aromatic plants (BG). In a very special piece of terrain representing a snake along 200 m2, you can find fragrant species as Lippia and Origanum between other aromatic plants used as condiment or spice and other for perfume industry. This collection is attractive for smelling and tasting. At the entrance visitor can find origanum, xkakaltun, sakchacah and lantana and an exotic named nabanche’. (70, 71, 72).
Ornamental plants (BG and walking paths). Around the different areas in the Botanical garden and Regional Laboratory for the Study and Conservation of Germplasm as well as in path corridors, visitor can enjoy dozens of ornamental plants native or exotic. Our spaces for visitors include a coffee shop, an outdoors theater and a big room for group events. That’s why ornamental plants offer an enjoyable view with ornamental plants. (68 , 69).
Popol vuh (GermoLab). This collection represents the plants appearing in the sacred book named Popol Vuh. Is an alive representation of cosmogonic believes of Mayan culture. Have four sections: The born of the sun, The creation of man, The fire as a present, The fit between the good and the bad. Have an extension of 1100 square meters and is located right in front of the germplasm main building. (76 , 77 , 78).
Chilam balam (GermoLab). The Chilam balam are old Yucatecan texts considered sacred. Is a compilation of traditional oral information and also came from the hieroglyphic manuscripts. This collection is based on Chilam balam Ixil and Chumayel: first one is a medical recipe book while the second one is a cosmogonic and ritual view. This collection has 160 plants organized according with the groups of diseases and also according with the chapter that mention every plant. (79, 80, 81)
These collections represent different life forms of plant kingdom which represents different ecological adaptations to different environmental conditions.
Trees evergreen and deciduous (BG). We have 170 tree species organized by botanical taxonomic groups as genus, families and orders and also by size. The collection pretends to be an open alive book to show how important the trees are to improve human quality of life. (20, 21 , 22).
Palms of Yucatan (BG). This peculiar form of life for many people looks like trees however they are not. All of them belong to Arecaceae family, and we have represented 17 of 20 species native in Yucatan Peninsula, six of them threatened and protected by Mexican law. (23, 24).
Exotic palms (BG). This collection have those species not native in Yucatan, which means those species are native in other regions of Mexico, America or in other continents; we show 40 exotic species. Most of these species came as ornamental plants however there are at least two important for commerce as coconut and dates. (25 , 26).
Vines (BG). We have represented few more than 40 species with nice flowering time and nice leafs. Their main characteristic is to use trees or shrubs to climb using their own aerial roots and other structures to support the whole vine. (27, 28) , 29).
Rossetes (BG). This form of plants is distinguished by long leaves crowded on top of the steam. There are different botanical groups, and many of them are commercialized as ornaments. In this collection we have well represented the Beaucarnea genus with nine of the 11 species existing as total in the world. We have also Agave and Dracaena genus. (34, 35).
Herbs (BG). We planted here species of Araceae and Amarillydaceae families most of them important as ornament, however we have also onion and garlic (edible) which belongs to these botanical families. (30, 33).
Arid garden (BG). We pretend in 1400 m2 to represent endangered and endemic species of local flora, around 90 species are represented showing different adaptations to dry environments what we call xerophytic which have structures to storage enough water to resist long dry season. (30, 33).
Natural bonsai (BG). In 400 m2 we planted some “dwarf” individuals growing naturally in the Scientific Park (PCTY) thus, right before the big constructions start, we just rescued those adult short trees. This natural dwarf (similar than bonsai even naturally) most probably is a consequence of almost no soil and long dry season, so the trees of Bursera are completely adapted.
Based on their natural distribution and/or based on geographic entities, we represent different types of vegetation.
Endangered and in risk (GermoLab). In a quarter of hectare we have about 40 species meaning a sixth of the 250 which is the total in this group in Yucatan Peninsula.
Rare species (BG). We consider various types of rare (meaning not common) plants, depending of the reason we choose: biogeographic, habitat, demographic or combining those. Furthermore those species can easily become more rare especially when some factors are present as low genetic variability of low fecundity; ecological like scarce pollinators or not regular rainy season; and, of course, anthropogenic factors as urbanization or stablish new industries, and all reason to transform the natural areas. (45, 46).
100% Yucas (endemic) (BG). In this area we have exclusively Yucatecan patrimony which means those species that grow up with a restricted natural distribution. We want to prevent their loss, as a priority. About those species, whose natural distribution is only in Yucatan Peninsula, we consider that the main responsibility to preserve those in long term is ours, given that we are living here. (47, 48).
Deciduous dry forest with candle-cactus (BG). In an extension of 1500 square meters we represent this ecosystem considered in risk, however is characteristic in northern Yucatan and is also an ecosystem rich in endemic and rare species. This collection has 70 species and frequently we make enrichment including some species as Beaucarnea pliabilis, Euphorbia personata, Guaiacum sanctum, Nopalea gaumeri, Pilosocereus gaumeri, Platymiscium yucatanum, Pterocereus gaumeri and Wimmeria obtusifolia. (49, 50).
Cycads (BG). Is an incipient collection of this group very antique because these plants were very common and with the most diversity about 251 to 65 million years ago, since when, have been declined. In our days are considered as alive fossils represented with 330 species in tropical environments with two botanical families: Cycadaceae in old world and Zamiaceae in Neotropics. In Mexico we have genus Ceratozamia, Dioon and Zamia, most of them endangered. (40, 41).
Bromeliads (BG). In a particular 100 m2 rock, we show twelve ornamental native species and some others cultivated, all belonging to the same family that pineapple belongs. In this family, plants are characterized by leaves forming a rosette some of them very colorful, and some adapted to epiphytic life or xerophytic environments. The famous is pineapple, however many others are well known as ornamental plants. (43, 44).
These collections have been designed to develop specific activities for research educational programs or particular management.
Recalcitrant (BG). A basic method to reach the conservation of seeds in long term is to reduce humidity and storage in low temperatures so, the seeds resisting those conditions are named orthodox and they can maintain alive many decades or centuries. However, there are many species that their seeds do not resist those conditions and are named recalcitrant. That is why in this collection, established in 6700 m2, we are focused to show recalcitrant-seeded species. (83, 84).
From Mesoamerica to the world (BG). The domestication is a cultural process developed by indigenous people using the natural genetic diversity of plants and doing selection to create new varieties different from the wild in order to supply human needs, thus the new ones resulting are domesticated. Mesoamerica is distinguished by many cultural issues and one of those is the group of plants domesticated in this part of the world (as botanist Vavilov explained and we mentioned here before). This area, even is a transitory collection, pretends to show some iconic species in the local traditional food systems, like corn, beans, squash and jicama. (82).
Plant nursery (GermoLab). A half of hectare has been designated to artificial propagation of useful plants and/or in risk, which are especially important to reach the main objectives of our GB and important for regional conservation or local economy. We work on propagation, acclimatization or just to grow up, in order to maintain all other collections. We eventually canalize those plants to restoration activities or to contribute with programs for reforestation, agroforestry or local sell. (87, 88).