CARDIFF, Wales--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Wales has become the first country in the world to DNA barcode all of its flowering plants—a scientific breakthrough that opens up vast potential for the future of plant conservation and human health. The milestone was achieved at the National Botanic Garden of Wales in collaboration with the National Museum Wales and project partners from U.K. universities including Cardiff University, Swansea University, Aberystwyth University, the University of Glamorgan, and the University of the West of England.
The Barcode Wales project was led by Dr. Natasha de Vere, head of conservation and research at the National Botanic Garden. Working closely with Dr. Tim Rich of the National Museum Wales, and with significant commitment from Garden volunteers and staff, she and her team have created a reference database of DNA barcodes based on Wales’ 1,143 species of native flowering plants and conifers, assembling more than 5,700 DNA barcodes. The Barcode Wales DNA database represents 75% of all of the flowering plant species in the U.K.
The National Botanic Garden of Wales is already collaborating with partners throughout the U.K., including a project with the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at Cardiff University to DNA barcode honey for drug discovery. In addition, Dr. de Vere is working with the Swansea Ecology Research Team (SERT) at Swansea University to investigate the role of hoverflies in pollination. The National Botanic Garden welcomes possible collaborations with North American organizations involved in similar areas of research, to expand the DNA records beyond the U.K.
DNA barcodes are short sequences of DNA unique to each species. The Barcode Wales project involved taking DNA samples from thousands of samples, with the result that plant species can now be identified from pollen grains, fragments of seeds or roots, wood, dung, stomach contents or environmental samples collected from air, soil or water.
“Wales is now in the unique position of being able to identify plant species which in the past would have been incredibly difficult or impossible to classify,” said Dr. de Vere. “Through the Barcode Wales project, we have created a powerful platform for a broad range of research, from conserving rare species to developing new pharmaceuticals.”
As Dr. de Vere explained, Wales is an ideal place to illustrate the potential of flowering plant DNA barcoding. It’s a small country, with native and non-native seed plant flora of just 1,143 species contained within 455 classes, 95 families and 34 orders. Wales also has a long tradition of botanical recording and study, and its national herbarium contains a comprehensive collection of species, including many recent additions.
The Barcode Wales team is now working on DNA barcoding the rest of the U.K.’s flowering plant species. The National Botanic Garden, National Museum Wales and University of Glamorgan are partnering with the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and Imperial College and Royal Botanic Gardens Kew – two leading botanical gardens – in extending the DNA database.
The completion of the Barcode Wales DNA library was announced in the journal PLoS ONE and all of the DNA barcodes are freely available as part of the Barcode of Life Database (BOLD). For additional information, please visit the National Botanic Garden of Wales website.
Note to North American media: Interviews with Dr. de Vere may be arranged through the Welsh Government’s office in New York. Images are also available upon request. Please contact Catrin Brace at (212) 745-0407 or email@example.com.
About the National Botanic Garden of Wales
The National Botanic Garden of Wales is recognized as a center for integrated plant conservation at a local, national and international level; and has developed into an internationally renowned center for plant sciences and biodiversity research. Opened in 2000, the Garden maintains a collection of over 8,000 different plant varieties, spread across 560 acres of beautiful countryside located approximately one hour outside the capital city of Cardiff. Its science program concentrates on research that conserves the biodiversity of Wales and the rest of the U.K., and research into the medicinal properties of plants and natural products. Visitor, program and event information is available at www.gardenofwales.org.uk.