Examples and applied use

Wild Beta species are found from Turkey and adjacent countries to the Macaronesian archipelago, as well as from Morocco to southern Norway, but one rare, annual species of B. patula—which has value for increasing beet seed production—is an endemic of the Madeira archipelago. An ecogeographic survey showed the species was restricted to the Ponta de São Lourenço peninsular of Madeira, Porto Santo and the uninhabited Desertas Islands. It was found growing on loam-clayey and rocky soils, poor in organic matter, low in moisture content, but with high salinity. B. patula is considered one of the 100 most endangered species of Macaronesia and has recently been IUCN Red List assessed as Critically Endangered. Following a field survey, it was found that species population sizes on the two Desertas Islands range between 2,730 and 4,620 individuals. Protection measures undertaken by the Natural Park of Madeira have increased population sizes by 10.8 times, but populations still suffer strong annual fluctuations and further management is required to reach the minimum viable population size. Although not formally designated as a genetic reserve, the management of the populations of B. patula on the Desertas Islands provide a good model for genetic reserve based conservation.

Source: Pinheiro de Carvalho et al. (2012)

Beta patula Aiton, a primary wild relative of cultivated beets, B. vulgaris subsp. vulgaris, endemic to two islets in the Madeira archipelago, Portugal, here pictured at the Ilhéu do Desembarcadouro. (Photo: Énio Freitas/BG ISOPlexis)
Habitat of B. patula at the Ilhéu do Desembarcadouro, Madeira archipelago, Portugal. (Photo: Énio Freitas/BG ISOPlexis )

The GEF project In situ Conservation of Native Landraces and their Wild Relatives in Vietnam ran from 2002 until 2005 and targeted the conservation of six native landraces (rice, taro, tea, mung bean, Citrus spp., litchi and longan) and CWR in three areas (the Northern Mountains, Northern Midlands and Northwest Mountains) in Vietnam. The project provided technical support to farmers, encouraging effective conservation, development, sustainable management and use of their native landraces and CWR. Identification of sites for the conservation of landraces and CWR were one of the outputs of this project. The selection of these was carried out in two stages:

1. Identification of genetically important areas based on:

  • Presence and genetic diversity of target species.
  • Presence of endemic species.
  • Overall floristic species richness.
  • Presence of high numbers of other economic species.
  • Presence of natural and/or semi-natural ecosystems.
  • Presence of traditional agricultural systems.
  • Protection status and/or existence of conservation-oriented farmers or communities that manage a number of species and varieties.

2. Selection of specific sites and communities within larger genetic reserves where socio-economic conditions indicated good prospects for agrobiodiversity conservation activities. Workshops, stakeholder consultations and meetings between NGOs, local institutes and farmer groups aided this process. Finally, the receptivity of the community to sharing traditional knowledge and practices that promote in situ conservation was assessed at each site.

The selected sites encompassed CWR, other species and landraces as well as a range of topographic, climatic and socio-economic conditions (e.g. proximity to markets and community-level associations). Eight genetic reserves were selected; two of them included more than one conservation site (one in a cultivated ecosystem and one in an associated site in an adjoining protected area), and the six remaining reserves consist only of cultivated ecosystems. Most of the targeted sites were diverse in terms of CWR and landraces of each crop and the sites also maintained more than one crop.

Source: Hue and Trinh (2007)

Genetic reserve, Al-Haffe, Syria. (Photo: Nigel Maxted)
Informal in situ conservation site, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon. (Photo: Nigel Maxted)

The Conservation and Sustainable Use of Dryland Agrobiodiversity project was funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) between 1999 and 2004. The project aimed to promote community-based in situ conservation and sustainable use of both landraces and CWR of cereals, food and feed legumes, Allium and fruit tree species originating from Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and Syria. Ecogeographic surveys of CWR were conducted for the target species across the four countries, and 24 key project sites (genetic reserves) were identified for further surveys of agrobiodiversity, potential for long-term in situ conservation and site threats. The surveys described the dynamics of site vegetation, collated species data (e.g. growth stage, cover/density, health status etc.), ecology and land use, as well as identifying the species to monitor for conservation. The collated species data were then entered in a database and time-series data were analyzed at country and regional levels to facilitate site and species management. The database was installed and used in each country, but maintained by ICARDA, whose staff periodically update it with new data sent by national survey teams.

The main results of the CWR surveys showed that there is still a wealth of cereals, food and feed legumes, Allium and fruit tree CWR species in the region, but that this wealth is seriously threatened by over-grazing, changes in agro-silvicultural practices, quarrying and urbanization. Local communities see little intrinsic value in CWR maintenance so there is a need for greater awareness of the broader value of CWR species among communities. However, where there is no economic return for farmers and herders changing their practices, national governments need to take the lead in CWR conservation. Further research is required to demonstrate how land management that favours CWR can lead to increased income for farmers and to the effective conservation of target CWR.

Source: Freeman et al. (2005)

Solanum bukasovii Juz. ex Rybin (=S. candolleanum P.Berthault), a gene pool primary wild relative of cultivated potatoes, pictured here in the Parque de la Papa, Peru. (Photo: Eve B. Allen)

The establishment of potato parks in centres of potato diversity—such as that in the Cusco region of Peru established by the indigenous Quechua people working in collaboration with CIP (International Potato Center) scientists—has focused attention on the in situ protection of potato CWR and landrace diversity. Although, the continued practice of traditional agriculture in the region will also favour maintenance of wild potato species. The Parque de la Papa (Potato Park) (8,661 ha) was established by the Quechua communities (ca. 8,000 villagers from six surrounding communities) in the Pisac Cusco area of Peru to jointly manage their communal land for their collective benefit, thereby conserving their landscape, livelihoods and way of life, and revitalizing their customary laws and institutions. Similarly, highly diverse cultivars of Solanum tuberosum subsp. andigena and related cultivated species are found in the Tiahuanaco region of southern Peru and northern Bolivia and this region may be suitable for establishment of a further potato park.

The Interactive Toolkit for Crop Wild Relative Conservation Planning was developed within the framework of the SADC CWR project www.cropwildrelatives.org/sadc-cwr-project (2014-2016),
which was co-funded by the European Union and implemented through ACP-EU Co-operation Programme in Science and Technology (S&T II) by the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States.
Grant agreement no FED/2013/330-210.