For the majority of plant species of conservation concern, seed banking and traditional propagation methods are the most efficient ways of meeting the ex situ and recovery conservation goals of Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (GSPC) Target 8. However, there are estimated to be 5000 or more endangered species for which these methods will not be adequate conservation tools. These “exceptional” species are those with recalcitrant seeds or those that produce few or no seeds. In vitro methods can provide alternative procedures for propagating and preserving germplasm in the long term for these species. Research at the Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW) with several U.S. endangered species has shown the potential of these methods. In vitro propagation can provide plants for reintroduction and research when traditional propagation methods are not adequate. Phytotissue banking can be used for long-term ex situ conservation when seed or embryo banking is not possible. In vitro methods are also needed for recovery when embryo banking of recalcitrant seeds is possible. The full implementation of in vitro methods is constrained by information, scientific, and economic challenges, but the need for its use in meeting the needs of exceptional species should provide impetus for overcoming these challenges and making these methods an integral part of an overall ex situ conservation strategy.
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