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Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México

The Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) is one of the largest universities in Latin-America and is involved in many conservation programs based upon a range of scientific research projects. As the largest University of the Country, UNAM is both obliged to carry out basic research on biodiversity and to develop strategies aimed at preserving biological resources. The Mexican orchid flora is well-known with more than 1,200 species having been described.  Many orchids are endemic to particular habitats within Mexico, such as mountain rain forests. For some taxa, such as Bletia, Mexico is the biodiversity centre of origin, and the genus has diversified into many species. Several groups of researchers at the University are working on propagation strategies for many endangered orchid species.  One of their objectives is the preservation of biological material in seed or tissue collections for restoration purposes.

For many terrestrial orchid species germination of seeds is assisted by soil fungi (symbiotic germination) and orchid distribution is mediated by the presence of a suitable fungal partner that can promote germination and plant establishment. In order to probe the effectiveness of mycorrhizal isolates derived from several soils in different orchid species a seed bank collection is required. Asymbiotic germination in nutritive media is necessary to provide information about the dependence of orchids on mycorrhizal fungi and as an alternative to conserving the species when the fungi are not available or have not been isolated. The long-term reintroductions of some orchids in Mexico made by Ortega-Larrocea's research group at UNAM have shown that seeds collections stored for many years can serve as a precious resource not only to preserve orchid species, but  symbiotic propagation also preserves microbial diversity as orchid mycorrhizal fungi perform important ecological soil functions in nutrient cycling and maintaining soil structure.

 

 
Mexico Orchid Seed Bank