Article révisé par les pairs
Résumé : The number of ex situ conservation facilities has grown dramatically in recent years, and they have become increasingly integrated under national and regional conservation initiatives. However, little information is available about the extent to which plant species are appropriately represented in ex situ collections. This paper assesses whether seed/spore collections stored in European seed banks cover or not, and to what extent, the species currently threatened with extinction in the wild. Although a substantial amount of the European flora (ca. 70%) is currently stored in seed banks, we highlight the relatively poor representation of threatened species: only 27% of the taxa listed on the European threatened plant list and 44% of the taxa listed in Annex II of the EU Habitat Directive are stored in European seed banks. Some taxonomical groups most at risk, e.g. Pteridophytes and Orchidaceae, are also under-represented in European seed banks. By examining the number of accessions per species and the number of seeds per accession, this study also gave some insight on how well species are conserved, considering that these two variables are surrogates for genetic diversity. We have highlighted that at least two thirds of the threatened species stored in European seed banks likely suffer from too low genetic diversity in the collections. These analyses were essential to identify those collections and additionally the standards needed to maximize the usefulness of future collections. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd.