Introduction

    Human activity, climate change, and other factors have led to the continuing extinction of the world species. Many countries have started the forward-looking approach to actively preserve their national bio-genetic materials. High quality preservation of frozen tissue samples, commonly known as the Frozen Ark project, can permanently preserve biodiversity. It can also monitor the changes of biodiversity and conduct research on various biological fields such as taxonomy, ecology, evolution and population genetics.

In addition, it can systematically arrange and archive voucher specimens and documents related to sources of these materials, as well as digitize data, so that quality of the preserved samples and access of data can be assured.
    Taiwan is a small island, but it occupies a pivotal position as its proportion of species numbers and endemic organisms are high when compared to the world’s average. This makes preserving the genetic materials of Taiwan’s native species all the more important. This kind of work is the first step when establishing the Barcode of Life Database (BOLD), which is promoted by the Consortium for the Barcode of Life (CBOL), International Barcode of Life (iBOL), and Global Bioidentification System (GBS). In 2004, the Forestry Bureau of Council of Agriculture started to sponsor a four-year, liquid nitrogen-based "Taiwan wild animal genetic material frozen program." The program began with native wild animals. It created a repository of genetic materials, organized and archived voucher specimens and documents related to sources of the material, and digitized data. From 2004 to 2007, the Endemic Species Research Institute of Council of Agriculture, Taipei Zoo, Biodiversity Research Center of Academia Sinica, and National Museum of Natural Science in Taichung have collected frozen genetic materials and set up databases of birds and mammals, amphibians and reptiles, fish, and terrestrial invertebrates, respectively. They have also archived tissue samples, voucher specimens, and images. To reduce the risk of losing materials, backups of most tissue samples have been stored at the Genetic Resources Center of Livestock Research Institute. In 2008, the genetic materials collected were expanded from wild animals to other organisms; an open solicitation of specimen and DNA barcode program was started too. By the end of 2009, the organisms collected have been broadened to include fungi, long-horned beetles, butterflies, land snails, marine invertebrates and other taxa. The collection has a total of 2,748 wild animal species and 9170 pieces of frozen specimens. There are 423 fungal species, 363 dry specimens, and 431 strains of live fungi. Additionally, there are 600 DNA sequences of animals. All the data can be accessed online at the Taiwan Wildlife Genetic Material Cryobank (http://cryobank.sinica.edu.tw). Many domestic and foreign research institutions have abided by the specimen management rules and obtained tissue samples, promoting academic exchanges and enhancing research qualities.
    The project will continue to expand the archiving of wild animal and fungi genetic materials. It hopes to build a DNA barcode system and permanently preserve all of Taiwan's wildlife genetic materials before some species disappear or become extinct. Moreover, it will continue to manage and maintain the cryobank and database website so that it can provide material for future research, education, conservation, restoration, and sustainable utilization, as well as meet the need of different aspects such as genetic diversity study, genetic resource usages, smuggling prevention, and alien invasive species control.

Kwang-Tsao Shao on January 19, 2010


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