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Background: Over half of the world's primary forest and a quarter of the world's plant species are found in Latin America. As a result of the limited protected areas and significant degradation of terrestrial ecosystems, seed banks provide an efficient component of integrated plant conservation strategies, chiefly due to their relatively low cost and massive storage capacity for genetic resources.Aims: We analyse the role that ex situ seed banks play in the conservation and reintroduction of threatened species, and in supporting ecological restoration programmes in the region.Methods: An analysis of the second National Reports on the state of the World's Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture showed that most countries in the region had the capacity for seed conservation. Using three case studies from seed conservation programmes in Mexico, Brazilian Amazonia and Chile, together with the global Millennium Seed Bank Partnership, we review the status and potential of these initiatives for conservation of plant diversity.Conclusion: The collection, conservation and use of seeds from arid and semi-arid biomes is highly effective; however the higher frequency of recalcitrant seeds in humid tropical forests requires a greater investment in research to underpin large-scale seed banking. In order to safeguard native species and provide adequate diversity of seeds for habitat restoration programmes, we anticipate the need to strengthen the capacity of the region's seed banks for preservation, research and propagation of native species