International collaboration between collections-based institutes for halting biodiversity loss and unlocking the useful properties of plants and fungi

Timothy R. Pearce*, Alexandre Antonelli, Francis Q. Brearley, Charlotte Couch, Rafaela Campostrini Forzza, Susana C. Gonçalves, Sékou Magassouba, Marli P. Morim, Gregory M. Mueller, Eimear Nic Lughadha, Matija Obreza, Suzanne Sharrock, Monique S.J. Simmonds, Beri Bonglim Tambam, Timothy M.A. Utteridge, Elinor Breman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


The United Nations' Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 17 calls for “strong global partnerships and cooperation” to support the other SDGs. The collections-based science community offers many examples of conservation of plant and fungal biodiversity, sharing, repatriation and aggregation of data, access to new technologies, supply of plant and fungal material, strengthening capacity of practitioners, and benefit sharing with the providers of biodiversity and genetic resources. Collaboration framed by workable multilateral treaties will increase our understanding of plant and fungal diversity, help halt biodiversity loss, and accelerate our sustainable use of plants and fungi and the exploration of their useful traits. Summary: Collections-based institutes are at the forefront of generating knowledge and understanding of plant and fungal biodiversity. Through the analysis of occurrence data, the use of modern technologies to better understand the evolutionary relationships between species and documentation of their useful properties, the work of collections-based institutes provides good models for conservation; addressing species loss and improving sustainable use of plants and fungi. Nevertheless, the pressure on the planet's plant and fungal diversity is relentless. We argue that a massive increase in the accessibility of preserved and living collections of plants and fungi is required. An increased scale of responsible exploration to both conserve and unlock the useful properties of plants and fungi is needed to deliver solutions to the many global challenges facing humanity and the planet. This article explores the role of collaborations between collections-based institutes and their partners in preventing biodiversity loss and delivering sustainable development. Drawing on examples from herbaria, agricultural and wild species genebanks, mycological collections, an international NGO, and the botanic garden community, we demonstrate how collaboration improves efficiency and impact. Collaborations can be peer to peer, institutional, governmental, national, or international, they may involve work with local communities and are frequently a combination of these. We suggest the five key benefits to collaboration and show that with trust, understanding, and mutual respect, powerful and sustainable partnerships develop. Such trust and respect are hard won, but once established, sustain a high level of commitment, enable development of shared long-term visions of success, and attract diverse funding streams.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)515-534
Number of pages20
JournalPlants People Planet
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • botanic gardens
  • fungarium
  • genebanks
  • herbarium
  • metacollection
  • pre-breeding
  • seed banks
  • training

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Plant Science
  • Horticulture


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