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Crop wild relatives (CWRs) of rice hold important traits that can contribute to enhancing the ability of cultivated rice (Oryza sativa and O. glaberrima) to produce higher yields, cope with the effects of climate change, and resist attacks of pests and diseases, among others. However, the genetic resources of these species remain dramatically understudied, putting at risk their future availability from in situ and ex situ sources. Here we assess the distribution of genetic diversity of the four rice CWRs known to occur in Colombia (O. glumaepatula, O. alta, O. grandiglumis, and O. latifolia). Furthermore, we estimated the degree of overlap between areas with suitable habitat for cultivated and wild rice, both under current and predicted future climate conditions to assess the potential spatiotemporal scale of potential gene flow from GM rice to its CWRs.


Our findings suggest that part of the observed genetic diversity and structure, at least of the most exhaustively sampled species, may be explained by their glacial and post-glacial range dynamics. Furthermore, in assessing the expected impact of climate change and the potential spatiotemporal scale of gene flow between populations of CWRs and GM rice we find significant overlap between present and future suitable areas for cultivated rice and its four CWRs. Climate change is expected to have relatively limited negative effects on the rice CWRs, with three species showing opportunities to expand their distribution ranges in the future.


Given (i) the sparse presence of CWR populations in protected areas (ii) the strong suitability overlap between cultivated rice and its four CWRs; and (iii) the complexity of managing and regulating areas to prevent alien gene flow, the first priority should be to establish representative ex situ collections for all CWR species, which currently do not exist. In the absence of studies under field conditions on the scale and extent of gene flow between cultivated rice and its Colombian CWRs, effective in situ conservation might best be achieved through tailor-made management plans and exclusion of GM rice cultivation in areas holding the most genetically diverse CWR populations. This may be combined with assisted migration of populations to suitable areas where rice is unlikely to be cultivated under current and future climate conditions.

Category: Genetic diversity Conservation
Authors: Thomas, E., et al.
Journal/Series: Rice
Publication Year: 2017

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