Barcode project puts Wales Number 1 in the world

Wales has become the first country in the world to DNA barcode all its flowering plants. This scientific breakthrough opens up huge potential for the future of plant conservation and human health.

The work to make Wales No 1 in the world was carried out at the National Botanic Garden in collaboration with Amgueddfa Cymru-National Museum Wales and project partners from various universities, including Swansea. 

The Barcode Wales project, led by the National Botanic Garden’s Head of Conservation and Research Dr Natasha de Vere, has created a reference database of DNA barcodes based on the 1143 native flowering plants and conifers of Wales, assembling over 5700 DNA barcodes.

Plants can now be identified from pollen grains, fragments of seed or roots, wood, dung, stomach contents or environmental samples collected from the air, soil or water. 

DNA barcoding may also be able to help in the crisis facing our pollinators. Dr de Vere is working with PhD student Andrew Lucas from the Swansea Ecology Research Team (SERT) at Swansea University to investigate the role that hoverflies play in pollination.

Andrew says: “Hoverflies play a key role in pollination but we know very little about their behaviour. My research will collect hoverflies and find out where they go by DNA barcoding the pollen carried on their bodies. We are interested in how hoverflies move through the landscape and the importance of habitat quality.”