Advances in molecular and cell biology have led to the development of a whole range of techniques for manipulating genomes, collectively termed "biotechnology". Although much of the focus in the plant sciences has been on the direct manipulation of plant genomes, biotechnology has also catalyzed a renewed emphasis on the importance of biological and genetic diversity and its conservation. The methods of biotechnology now permit a greater understanding of both species and genetic diversity in plants, the mechanisms by which that variation is generated in nature, and the significance of that variation in the adaptation of plants to their environment. They allow the development of rapid methods for screening germplasm for specific characters and promote more effective conservation strategies by defining the extent of genetic diversity. Tissue culture-based techniques are available for conserving germplasm that cannot be maintained by more traditional methods. Also sophisticated informatics systems enable information on plant genetics and molecular biology to be cross-related to systematic, ecological and other data through international networks.