About the



Biodiversity Biobanks South Africa

The BBSA, as one of the projects under the South African Research Infrastructure Roadmap (SARIR) of the Department of Science & Innovation (DSI), is a co-ordinating structure for participating  biodiversity biobanks, with the main aim of increasing the range and quality of samples stored, and increasing and improving access for research and development.

South Africa is considered to be a megadiverse country, with exceptionally high levels of plant, animal and microbial species richness and endemism. Ensuring that this biodiversity is represented in national biobanks is important so that it can serve as a resource for research in a wide range of fields, including crop and livestock improvement, in the development of new medicines or foods, or industrial products, and in the conservation of iconic and highly threatened species. South Africa already has a wealth of biobank samples, many of which have been collected over a period of 20 or more years, and if these are appropriately secured, they could be used to create a time-series of biomaterials that will help us understand change, and allow us to predict how this change will play out into the future.

The objectives of the BBSA are:

to ensure that there is a co-ordinated and collaborative system representing all relevant components of biodiversity, including agri-biodiversity, and to promote the value of biodiversity biobanks to increase awareness of their importance to society and the economy;

by researchers and industry by access to data on biobank specialisations and services offered, samples available and storage specialisations across the network;

by facilitating training opportunities for biobank staff and users, including students, accessing or donating samples to the biobanks;

by facilitating training opportunities for biobank staff and users accessing or donating samples to the biobanks;

What are biodiversity biobanks?

Biodiversity biobanks are repositories of biologically relevant resources, including reproductive tissues such as seeds, eggs and sperm, other tissues including blood, DNA extracts, microbial cultures (active and dormant), and environmental samples containing biological communities.

These biomaterials represent species, strains, varieties and breeds present in South Africa, including domesticated crops and livestock, that can be used to support research, capacity development and the development of new or improved products and practices in the fields of agriculture, human health and wellness, environmental management and conservation biology.