Establishing the Gene Bank to Preserve the Endangered Biodiversity of the Rain Forest in the Valley of the Caura River, Venezuela (The CAURA RIVER PLANT CORE COLLECTION, CRCC)  

Project authors:

Ivo Wiesner, Mnislav Zelený, Jiří Šlambora, Tomáš Wiesner (the ranking of the authors and their individual involvement will be determined on the basis of future negotiations)


Contact addresses:

Ing. Ivo Wiesner, CSc., Institute of Molecular Biology of Plants, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, Plant Genetics Department, Molecular Biodiversity Group, Branišovská 31, České Budějovice, Postcode 370 05, Czech Republic, e-mail: Telephone: +420-38-777 5501(12), fax: +420-38-53 00 356; mobile: 0703 244 3029

Ing. Mnislav Zelený, Gran Amazonia Foundation, o.p.s., Masarykova 3, Postcode 400 01 Ústí nad Labem, Czech Republic, mobile: 0604-263868, e-mail:

Mgr. Tomáš Wiesner, City Museum of Ústí nad Labem, Masarykova 3, Postcode 400 01 Ústí nad Labem, Czech Republic, e-mail Telephone/fax: +420-48-5211260, mobile: 0603 541 481


Short-term project:

3 years


Every country must protect the three key resources of its national treasure: the material, cultural and biological resources. The risks and dangers threatening to affect the first two resources are already generally known to the public, but the acute risks of diminishing biodiversity have remained hidden to the western world (Flitner and Heins, 2002). Advanced countries’ corporations handle the biological wealth of the Third World as if it were an inexhaustible source of business profit. As a result, tropical rain forests, which account for more than a half of the biological species (many of them not yet described and investigated) of our planet (Hoyt 1992) are being totally devastated by the continuing illegal pirate activities of those who are ruthlessly cutting down the trees, and also by primitive farming technologies.

To save, at least part of, this unique biodiversity for the future generations, official responsibility must be assumed in terms of broad support for the development of biodiversity gene banks with a view to maintaining representative collections from selected territories and ecosystems. There is a general consensus with respect to this strategy; as a result, the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPGRI) was established under the Food and Agriculture Organisation (Bragdon and Downes 1998).

Biodiversity collections are limited in terms of capacity and funds. It is therefore necessary to develop efficient technologies for the specialisation of the various collections (territorial, ecosystem-related, or taxonomic specialisation), with respect to the selection of biological samples to be preserved. Instead of amorphous random collections, built without a well-thought conception, it is necessary to build minimum collections at reasonable costs, which will be representative in terms of environment, biology and genetics, with minimum duplication of the samples, while ensuring that the gene bank remains representative of each line of specialisation.

For the above reasons, the theory of minimum collections (“core collections”) was developed, providing adequate rules as to the collection size, sampling strategy, and collection stratification into sub-collections based on taxonomic relations (Johnson and Hodgkin, 1999).

According to the definition, a core collection comprises only limited numbers of entries (items) adequately reflecting the genetic spectrum of the given geographical region. A core collection should represent, to the greatest possible extent, the genetic diversity of the region it covers. The various items should not overlap in terms of the ecological and genetic information they bear (Brown, 1995).

Scientific objectives of the project:

  1. The key objective is to establish and use state-of-the-art molecular biology techniques and further develop the gene bank of the biodiversity of the valley of the Caura River in Venezuela (Caura River Core Collection, CRCC). This minimum gene bank should provide initial biological material for future projects of theoretical and applied research, and for advanced students’ and PhD theses in the areas of genomics and proteomics, molecular systematics and taxonomy, and molecular ecology.
  2. At the same time, advanced techniques of molecular biology will be used to develop new preservation strategies and technologies applicable to rain forest conditions, and which also respect the specific qualities of the biological material and of the actual geographical region of the valley of the Caura River.

The general objective:

  • establish a first generation of a plant core collection specialising in maintaining the plant biodiversity of the geographical region and basic ecosystems of the Caura River Valley.
  • the gene bank is to be physically located in the specifically designed space on the premises of the Museum of the City of Ústí nad Labem, where the Museum is to share the management of the gene bank with the EVIGEZ (Czech Genetic Pools Recording group under the Research Institute of Crop Production, Prague-Ruzyně); the possible co-operation with the Institute of Tropical and Subtropical Agriculture (ISTZ) of the Czech Agricultural University in Prague (ČZU) will also be considered. Other (international) institutions involved in the biological preservation of tropical forests may also participate (IPGRI).

Specific objectives:

  1. Collect selected plant material in situ, including seeds and tissues
  2. Provide the entry identification of the collected material and the documentation thereof, using advanced electronic procedures (Painting et al., 1995, Karp et al., 1997, Ayad et al., 1997, Siffelová et al., 1998, Wiesner et al., 2001 and 2002)
  3. Test the preservation techniques and procedures that allow preserving the material for the future (a) taxonomic research, (b) analyses of the genome and proteome
  4. Build, and provide, technological equipment for the collection storage space in the building of the Museum
  5. Catalogise the items, using advanced database technologies (Perry et al., 1993)
  6. Provide a presentation of the collection through scientific papers, lectures etc., in scientific periodicals, through the website and through the Czech media.

Technical issues for the discussion on the project:

Is it reasonable and desirable to involve the Venezuelan biodiversity and preservation teams in the co-operation for the purposes shown below, considering factors such as:
  1. the co-operation with such teams and the level and extent thereof
  2. possibly easier procedures of obtaining the permits to collect and transport biological materials over the border (cf. Barton and Siebveck 1994)
Currently there are just formal initial e-mail contacts with:
Dr. Héctor F. AGUILAR
CIRES Director
P.O.Box 397 Márula 5101
República Bolívariana de Venezuela

In Venezuela, there are two big collections – farm crop gene banks: the CIARCO (Araure) holding 248 cassava genotypes, and the UCV (Maracay) holding 212 cassava genotypes and 40 batata genotypes (Brown, 1995).

Is it worthwhile to enter into contacts with the IPGRI international organisation (

Preliminary budget of the initial project:

    First year (CZK ‘000) Second year (CZK ‘000) Third year (CZK ‘000)
1 Travel expenses, material costs 250+150 250+100 250+100
2 Services (publishing costs) 20 20 20
3 Contribution of local organisation (power, use of instruments, guarding the premises etc. (UMBR AV ČR*; City Museum of Ústí nad Labem) 35 35 35
4 Total non-capital expenditures (sum 1+2+3) 455 405 405
5 Capital expenditures over CZK 40,000.-; software over CZK 60,000.- 450 (digital photo documentation, rooms with regulated temperature to store biological material)    
6 Staff costs (remuneration) 80 80 80
Total   985 485 485
TOTAL in USD 32,000.- 16,200.- 16,200.-
*UMBR AV ČR = Institute of Plant Molecular Biology of the Czech Academy of Sciences

The accurate budget figures for the starting project will have to be adjusted and detailed according to the rules and possibilities based on the financing source, and the actual volume of planned work and staff available. Detailed finalisation of the budget may involve an upward or downward change by an order in the costs.

Justification of the budget:

  1. Material costs:
    Three types of procedure will be used for collecting the plant material:
    1. segments of plant tissue in ethanol or isopropanol (??? as to alcohol there may be problems with transborder transport; to prevent that, isopropanol would be a good solution??)
    2. herbarium items for future drying on silica gel (??? fungicides needed??)
    3. seeds and other material for natural reproduction of plants.
  2. Travel costs:
    It is planned that every year two participants will spend 30-60 days working in the Caura Valley in Venezuela. The budget includes air tickets, insurance, vaccination and the costs of the stay.
  3. Service costs:
    This includes, in particular, costs of presentations and publications. Impact publications are to be written, informing about the establishment, content and focus (specialisation) of the gene bank and its basic characteristics (including molecular parameters) (international impact scientific journals such as Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution and geographical journals, such as Lidé a země, National Geographic and others), and also presentations in the national media to provide adequate publicity, as suitable for the project.
  4. Operating contribution for the organisations involved:
    The Institute of Plant Molecular Biology of the Czech Academy of Sciences in České Budějovice and the Museum of the City of Ústí nad Labem will need a contribution for the operation of the rooms used under the project, the utilities, telecommunications etc.
  5. Capital expenditures:
    1. What is treated as capital expenditures according to the current accounting rules is the acquisition of an instrument worth more than CZK 40 thousand and software over CZK 60 thousand. At this level of cost we plan to buy a standard photo camera and digital photo camera with high-quality optics to be able to record morphological details for prompt in situ electronic photo documentation for later exact taxonomic identification of the collections, for the picture part of the electronic databases and for the documentation of the materials undergoing molecular analyses.
    2. There are plans to build an Internet database (based on PHP and SQL technologies) with a web interface, giving the possibility of later “remote data mining” investigations.
    3. A cold storage room is to be built and equipped for long-term storage of biological material at low temperatures on the premises of the Museum of the City of Ústí nad Labem.

The main deliverables of the project:

  1. Establishing a new biodiversity collection of the gene pool of the rain forest of the Caura River valley in Venezuela. The collection is to preserve the diminishing biodiversity of this region and allow the implemention of related but separate scientific projects, including molecular taxonomy and systematics; it will also make it possible to develop methods of DNA fingerprinting and molecular genome identification, isolation and characterisation of selected parts of the plant genome, construction of genome libraries and eDNA libraries for learning the structure and dynamics of the plant genome (issues of molecular biodiversity with respect to the single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) of plant genomes).
  2. Publishing articles on the scientific, social and cultural benefits of the new collection and other newly built collections
  3. Building a new permanent exhibition in the Museum of the City of Ústí nad Labem, which will be accessible to both researchers and the general public so as to fulfil its teaching function of acquainting the public with the issues of endangered natural, social and cultural resources of the rain forest of Venezuela through the example of the Caura River Valley.
  4. The Museum will organise lectures and presentations to the general public on a regular basis.


Ayad, W.G., T. Hodgkin, A. Jaradat, and V.R. Rao, 1997: Molecular genetic techniques for plant genetic resources. Report of IPGRI Workshop, 9-11 October, Rome, Italy.

Barton, J.H., and W.E. Siebeck, 1994: Material transfer agreements in genetic resources exchange – the case of the International Agricultural Research Centres. IPGRI, Rome.

Bragdon, S.H., and D.R. Downes, 1998: Recent policy trends and developments related to the conservation, use and development of genetic resources. Genetic Resources No. 7, IPGRI.

Brown, A.H.D., 1995: The core collection at the crossroad. – in: Core Collections of Plant Genetic Resources (T. Hodgkin, A.H,D. Brown, Th. J.L. van Hintum, and E.A.V. Morales, eds.). IPGRI and Willey-Sayce Publ., Chichester – New York, 1995, pp. 3-19.

Flinter M., and V. Heins, 2002: Modernity and life politics: conceptualising the biodiversity crisis. POLITICAL GEOGRAPHY 21: (3) 319-340.

Hoyt, E., 1992: Conserving the wild relatives of crops. IBPGR-IUCN-WWF

Johnson, R.C., and T. Hodgkin, 1999: Core collections for IPGRI today and tomorrow. IPGRI and Crop Science Society of America.

Karp, A., S. Kresovich, K.V. Bhat, W.G. Ayad, and T. Hodgkin, 1997: Molecular tools in plant genetic resources conservation: a guide to the technologies. IPGRI Technical Bulletin No. 2.

Painting, K.A., M.C. Perry, R.A. Denning, and W.G. Ayad, 1995: Guidebook for genetic resources documentation, IPGRI Rome.

Perry, M.C., K.A. Painting, and W.G. Ayad, 1993: Gene bank management system software user’s guide. IBPGR Rome.

Wiesner, I. and D. Wiesnerová, 2002: Effect of resolving medium and staining procedure on inter-simple-sequence-repeat (ISSR) patterns in flax germplasm. Genet. Res. Crop Evol., in peer review processing.

Wiesner, I., Wiesnerová, D. and E. Tejklová, 2001: Effect of anchor and core sequence in microsatellite primers on flax fingerprinting patterns. J. Agricult.Sci. 137(1), 37-44.

Siffelová, G., M. Pavelková, A. Kabouchová, I. Wiesner, V, Našinec, and I. Našinec, 1998: RAPD fingerprinting of diploid Lolium perenne L. x hexaploid Festuca arundinacea Schreb. hybrid genomes. Biol. Plant 40(2), 183-192.