Cactus and their genes — Desert Botanical Garden hosts international symposium to understand and conserve iconic plant family
Earlier this month, the Garden hosted a first-of-its-kind international symposium focused on “CACTACEAE: PHYLOGENETICS, EVOLUTION AND CONSERVATION IN THE GENOMIC ERA”. In this event, researchers and botanists studying the cactus family from all over the world met virtually to discuss current research and future directions.
Gathered were a new generation of scientists studying the cactus family from many different perspectives (evolution, anatomy, physiology, genetics, ecology, conservation, etc), using novel technologies and data generating methods.
Nearly 50 attendees from U.S., Mexico, Chile, Argentina, Peru, United Kingdom and Germany participated. The discussions during this online event helped to clarify future actions that the academic community will take toward understanding and preserving cactus biodiversity, given that this is one of the most endangered groups of plants in the world.
One of the most important challenges the community is facing is the need for an international, continuous, and common effort towards the exchange of knowledge, but also exchange of plant material. Proposed is an international network of institutions that ensures the very best living collection of cactus biodiversity in terms of species numbers for future generations. This network would also promote the exchange of material like tissue, seeds or DNA. Zoos from all over the world are generating biodiversity banks, with cryogenic preservation of eggs, tissue, and DNA for endangered animals. The idea of having similar efforts for Cactaceae, with an international cactus seed bank as well as tissue and DNA banks were thoroughly discussed, and the Garden was identified unanimously as the future leader of these initiatives.
Finally, a special issue of the prestigious international academic journal ‘Genes’ is being prepared, to showcase all the interesting and important work presented during the Symposium.
This event is a watershed for the studies of Cactaceae around the world.