Gap analysis of priority CWR

What is gap analysis?

Gap analysis is a conservation evaluation technique that assists the prioritization of biodiversity elements for conservation action by identifying ‘gaps’ in the conservation of those elements (Noss and Cooperrider 1999, Eken et al. 2004, Rodrigues et al. 2004, Langhammer et al. 2007). Practically, all gap analyses, including those for CWR, involve a comparison between the range of natural diversity and the diversity already effectively represented by current in situ conservation actions (in situ gap analysis) and all accessions of the target CWR represented in genebank collections (ex situ gap analysis).

There is extensive literature associated with gap analysis, a method which essentially identifies areas in which selected elements of biodiversity are under-represented (e.g. Margules et al. 1988, Margules 1989, Margules and Pressey 2000, Allen et al. 2001, Balmford 2003, Brooks et al. 2004, Dietz and Czech 2005, Riemann and Ezcurra 2005). However, these examples are almost entirely restricted to identifying gaps in habitat or ecosystem conservation, not gaps within existing species or genetic diversity conservation. The use of this technique to identify gaps in networks of protected habitats for in situ conservation of genetic resources, namely for CWR, was first cited by Ingram and Williams (1993). Since then, a systematic gap analysis methodology for identifying gaps in species or genetic diversity conservation has been developed and illustrated with a case study for African Vigna wild relatives. This case study aimed to evaluate the effectiveness of current in situ and ex situ conservation, to identify the ‘gaps’, and therefore assisting the development of conservation strategies for African Vigna genetic resources (Maxted et al. 2008b). More recently, a methodology for collecting crop gene pools for ex situ conservation based on GIS tools has been developed (e.g. Ramírez-Villegas et al. 2010, Castañeda-Álvarez et al. 2015, Khoury et al. 2015a,b, Castañeda-Álvarez et al. 2016).

The results of the diversity analyses (distribution and ecogeographic diversity and genetic diversity) as well as novel threat assessment provide the information needed to identify gaps in current in situ and ex situ conservation actions for CWR. The Figure below summarises how these analyses feed into a gap analysis study.

Using distribution and ecogeographic diversity analyses, genetic diversity analysis and threat assessment to aid gap analysis.

Conservation gaps (both in situ and ex situ) can be detected at different levels (see Figure below):

  1. Individual CWR taxon level (CWR taxa not conserved versus taxa conserved).
  2. Ecogeographic level (for a particular CWR, areas/environmental conditions not covered by in situ or ex situ conservation activities versus those covered).
  3. Trait level (specific CWR populations that hold a particular trait of interest that are not conserved versus populations with that same trait that are).
  4. Genetic diversity level (specific CWR populations that are genetically important that are not conserved versus those that are).

The level(s) at which gap analysis can be undertaken depends on the types of data available for the study. It should be highlighted that genetic data are not always available and that the collation of information de novo may not be possible due to resource limitations. Therefore, in the absence of ‘real’ genetic information, ecogeographic diversity information is often used as a proxy. The result of an in situ gap analysis is the identification of in situ conservation priorities, while the result of an ex situ gap analysis is the identification of additional CWR germplasm collections that are required.

In situ and ex situ gap analysis methodologies for CWR diversity.

The Interactive Toolkit for Crop Wild Relative Conservation Planning was developed within the framework of the 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.