Ex situ conservation is the conservation and maintenance of samples of living organisms outside their natural habitat, in the form of whole plants, seed, pollen, vegetative propagules, tissue or cell cultures.
Ex situ conservation has several purposes:
- Rescue threatened germplasm.
- Produce material for conservation biology research.
- Bulk up germplasm for storage in various forms of ex situ facility.
- Supply material for various purposes to remove or reduce pressure from wild collecting.
- Grow those species with recalcitrant seeds that cannot be maintained in a seed store.
- Make available material for conservation education and display.
- Produce material for reintroduction, reinforcement, habitat restoration and management.
These ex situ collections of living organisms (living collections, seed banks, pollen, vegetative propagules, tissue or cell cultures) need to be managed according to strict scientific and horticultural standards to maximise their value for conservation purposes. Thus they need to be correctly identified, documented and managed and an efficient information management system put in place. Integrated conservation management can also ensure that ex situ collections can support in situ conservation, through habitat restoration and species recovery.