By collecting samples from plants from around the world housed at the US Botanic Garden, the Smithsonian Gardens, and the National Arboretum and elsewhere, the Smithsonian Institute's Global Genome Initiative aims to jump-start its effort to capture and bank the genomic diversity of half the world's living plants within two years, as GenomeWeb has reported.
Researchers, the BBC notes, are warning of a 'sixth mass extinction' as the rate of species extinction is some 100 times above normal.
"It's not just plants — it's plants, animals, and microorganisms," John Kress, the interim under secretary for science at the Smithsonian tells the BBC. "Everything that is alive and living in a natural habitat is now being threatened by degradation of those habitats primarily because of what we're doing as humans."
By collecting and freezing these plant samples in a biorepository, Kress says the institutions hopes to preserve the genomic history of these plants as well as inform studies of the impact of climate change, searches for new therapeutics, and the biology of these plants.
"These genomes will be preserved forever," Jonathan Coddington, director of the Global Genome Initiative, says. "We're putting life on ice."