Examples and applied use

Biodiversity in the Fertile Crescent is of global significance as it has globally significant populations of landraces and CWR of wheat, barley, lentil, chickpea, faba bean and several species of forages, range species and dryland fruit trees. Little is known of the status and trends of the diversity of these species according to both the First and Second reports on the State of the World on Plant Genetic Resources produced by FAO (FAO 1998, 2010). ICARDA, together with national research institutes in Jordan, Lebanon, Palestinian Authority and Syria, conducted population surveys across more than 65 monitoring sites between 2000 and 2005 as part of a GEF-supported regional project on promoting in situ conservation of dryland agrobiodiversity in the four countries. Further surveys were continued across 40 monitoring sites in 2009 and 2011. The CWR demographic data accumulated over 11 years showed that the CWR populations are suffering continued loss due to over-grazing, land reclamation and destruction of natural habitats. However, the CWR demographic data collected in Sweida and Al Haffeh in Syria were less affected compared to all other sites outside of Syria. The sites originally selected for the presence of large, healthy CWR populations—in Aarsal in Lebanon and Hebron in the West Bank—when re-surveyed, were found to be completely destroyed due to extensive quarrying. Although eleven of the original 65 sites were recommended for the establishment of protected areas, only one in the Alajjat region of southern Syria was declared a natural reserve in 2008.

Source: Amri A (pers. comm.)

Monitoring CWR populations in the West Bank, Palestinian Territories. (Photo: Nigel Maxted)
Population size change classes for population characterization.

Between 1986 and 2006, monitoring was carried out to detect changes in genetic diversity of 18 populations of five Vicia species (section Narbonensis) from two regions in Syria (Kesab, Lattakia province, and Tel Kalakh, Homs province).

A threat assessment to indirectly detect genetic erosion was based on the methodology suggested by Guarino (1995) and modified by de Oliveira and Martins (2002). A quantitative comparison of changes was undertaken using a scoring system of factors related to increased risk of genetic erosion and based on the information obtained from interviews with local farmers, agricultural extension officers and data from initial collections. Each site was scored from 0 to 10 in relation to 18 factors. The overall score, a sum of the scores of all 18 factors, inferred the risk of genetic erosion at each site (rather than for each population).

Population size was classified in both 1986 and 2006 according to the following categories: (i) large (>100 plants), medium (50–100 plants), small (10–50 plants) and very small (<10 plants). An ‘extinct’ category was used in 2006 given that some populations had become extinct. Population size changes (1986 vs 2006) were then grouped using six size classes (See Table below). A Spearman’s rank correlation was applied to evaluate the relationship between temporal changes in genetic erosion threat and demographic changes.

Source: Keiša et al. (2008)

Erodium paularense Fer.Gonz. & Izco, wild relative of an ornamental crop, endemic to central Spain. (Photo: José Maria Iriondo)

A demographic study was carried out on Erodium paularense Fern.Gonz. & Izco (Geraniaceae), a woody chamaephyte that is endangered (VV.AA. 2000) and endemic to central Spain. This species is characterized by a narrow distribution, small populations, very low reproductive success (González-Benito et al. 1995, Albert et al. 2001), seed predation by ants and low seedling recruitment; its populations are also subject to human activity (cattle herbivory, recreational activities and plant collection). A population viability analysis (PVA) was carried out with data from the smallest population (area of occupancy of 443m2) (Albert et al. 2004). Taking into account the plant size and their ability to produce flowers, plants were grouped into four life stages: one vegetative and three reproductive. These stages were obtained using cluster classification of field data: juvenile (<6cm), adult I (6–12cm), adult II (13–21cm), adult III (>21cm).

A metapopulation model was implemented with five subpopulations, four located in a rock microhabitat and one in lithosol. The model was built using spatial and demographic data gathered since 1993. Extinction risk and population decline under present and possible future scenario were estimated and the effectiveness of different conservation actions was evaluated.

Source: Albert et al. (2004)

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.