Bio-economics and Ecosystem Services of Amazonian Native Seed (BESANS)

Lead Research Organisation: Royal Botanic Gardens


Seeds are the natural means of species regeneration, the product of pollinator activity, the basis of agriculture, a type of non-woody product and a source of essential protein and vegetable fat (seed oil) with many potential uses (industrial oils, biofuels, cosmetics). Consequently they are one of the mainstays of continuing ecosystem services. The Amazon is one of the most biodiverse regions of the world and the forests near Manaus are considered priority conservation areas. Therefore, ecological research in the region is fundamentally important to the sustainable and innovative use of species and yet the scientific capacity in seed biology in the Amazon region is extremely limited.

BESANS will train 20 members of the Amazon Seed Network or students, 9 staff and up to 60 seed/seedling producers in Amazonian species seed biology, and upskilling in conservation biology. The partnership is sector specific, linking plant science institutes and aiming to understanding the seed supply chain (seed development, yield, processing and storage) associated with the nascent seed trade in the Amazonas. Research on seed biology is critical to accessing species for various development activities (food/energy security, ability to mitigate/adapt to climate change) and the collection and conservation of germplasm, the sustainable exploitation of biodiversity and restoration of degraded land are key objectives of the Ministry of the Environment (MMA) and INCRA (National Institute for Agrarian Reform). We will ensure the development outcome of a much more functional Amazon Native Seed Centre in Manaus, better able to provide high quality seeds of more species for various industries.

Planned Impact

The current ESPA project of the UK PI focusses on 'Unravelling biofuel impacts on ecosystem services, human wellbeing and poverty alleviation in Sub-Saharan Africa'. The needs of a growing human population for 30-50% greater energy, food and water use by 2050 will be met in part through more efficient and effective use of indigenous or introduced genetic resources. The ESPA project is providing clear empirical evidence on whether, and how biofuel production can improve human wellbeing and become an agent of poverty alleviation in African LDC. Attention is given, inter alia, to the agronomic potential of producing Jatropha curcas oilseeds. As this species has a centre of origin in the tropical Americas, it serves as an ideal model for the potential domestication and wide scale use of wild plant species. The findings of the BESANS project will provide further evidence of the potential of tropical species seeds, specifically in the Amazon, to underpin the delivery of provisioning resources (e.g., food, fuel, biochemical) and environmental services in the future. In this regard, the findings of BESANS will impact the nascent tree seed production sector in the region by making available seed quality information (through readily available seed information leaflets / technical sheets) that overcomes constraints to commercial (but sustainable) exploitation of Amazonian genetic resources, thus contributing to global economic performance. The realisation of some of these benefits will be relatively short-term, as BESANS will contribute to the definition of seed collecting zones and seed extraction rates that do not impact negatively on the current level of ecosystem services. Other immediate benefits will be the significant enhancement in tree seed handling skills of local people, technical staff, students and academics (both in the UK and Brazil), that will increase their opportunity of employment in the forestry sector.

The seed trade will also benefit through knowledge transfer to the International Seed Testing Association (ISTA). ISTA - founded in 1924 - has the aim of developing and publishing standard procedures for seed testing, which underpin quality assurance for the seed trade through a its network of accredited laboratories in over 70 countries/distinct economies world wide, including Brazil and the UK. Pritchard (Co-I, UK) and Ferraz (PI, Brazil) are members of two committees of ISTA [Seed Storage ( and Forest Tree and Shrub Seed (] and regular contributors to their triennial meetings.

The BESANS research group members within Brazil and the UK will be involved in a range of outreach activities to inform and educate the public about Amazonian plants and their sustainable use. BESANS will be communicated to a global audience through the Kew Science Blog ( which is accessed c. 3000 times a month. In addition, a short film will be made of the fieldwork that is part of the two-week training course to be held in Manaus. In the UK, BESANS will be presented to the public on 'Fascination of Plants' day (18 May 2015;


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Description Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Originally scheduled for July, the workshop titled "Amazing Amazon - seed biology and the bio-economics of native species" was held at Wakehurst Place, UK from 26-28 October, 2015 to accommodate the late start of funding for BESANS in Brazil. Attended by > 40 participants from 12 institutes. Six talks given by BESANS participants:
Isolde D K Ferraz (INPA) -  "Diversity and classification of tree seedlings in the Amazon"
Manuel de Jesus Vieira Lima Junior (Amazon Native Seed Centre, UFAM) - "Strategies for handling the Amazonian tree seeds: a critical role for communities"
Geangelo Petene Calvi (INPA) - " Stress biology of seeds of Eugenia stipitata, a bio-economically important species of the flooded forest"
Yeda Maria B C Arruda (Amazon Native Seed Centre, UFAM) - " Smoke water germination of tree seeds from a non-fire-prone environment"
Peter Toorop (Kew) - "Post-germination survival strategies in Handroanthus impetiginosus seeds vary with habitat"
Hugh W. Pritchard (Kew) - "Innovative approaches to the preservation of tropical tree species' seeds"
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016