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SEFARI Scientists Receive Innovation Award

SEFARI Scientists Receive Innovation Award

SEFARI scientists have been recognised for their innovative work on conserving genetic diversity by the Nature of Scotland Award 2020. This project, led by Professor Pete Hollingsworth, Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh, has established a world-first method to help understand and conserve genetic diversity in some of Scotland's most iconic wild species.

The UK Government has signed up to several international conventions relating to the conservation of nature. One of the most significant of these is the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The CBD is concerned with the conservation of all the living organisms and, at a meeting in 2010 in Nagoya, Japan, they established a Strategic Plan for 2011-2020 with twenty global Aichi targets.

The is project was launched to address Aichi Target 13 on the conservation of genetic diversity. This fills a significant gap in addressing this Aichi target, as the practical tool could enable other countries to assess its genetic diversity and compare what has been measured in Scotland.

The method has been endorsed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and submitted to the CBD ahead of the Kunming summit, which will see 196 countries meet in China to adopt a new global framework to safeguard nature and its contributions to human wellbeing. The meeting aims to set the course for biodiversity conservation for the next 10 years and the decades to come.

The work also contributed to the creation of the UKs first Genetic Conservation Unit, Beinn Eighe National Reserve, reflecting the importance of its ancient Caledonian pine forest.




Genetic diversity covers genetic variability (the number and characteristics of different types of organisms) distinctiveness (the degree to which an organism is different and distinct from others). This latter trait includes ‘evolutionary divergence’ (e.g. lineages that have been isolated for long periods of time and hence have become genetically distinct).

This project was hugely collaborative involving 17 organisations; it was jointly coordinated by the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, Scottish Natural Heritage and the University of Edinburgh and funded via the SEFARI Gateway Think Tank fund to Prof Pete Hollingsworth at RBGE.

SEFARI is a consortium of six globally renowned research institutes. As SEFARI, these institutes deliver the Scottish Government-funded Strategic Research Programme (SRP), which addresses key mid to longer-term challenges for Scotland’s environment, agriculture, land use, food and rural communities.

SEFARI Gateway is the knowledge exchange and impact hub for SEFARI. It aims to enhance the existing strong brands and reputations of the Institutes by adopting a dynamic, innovative, cooperative and collaborative approach that has policy, business and public engagement at its core. 

SEFARI Think Tanks respond to national and global grand challenges - to deliver insight and vision addressing challenging and often contested research questions of national and international importance.