Selection and prioritization


Resources, both human and financial, for the conservation of biodiversity, including CWR, are often limited. In many instances, the number of CWR is so great, that it would be impossible to initiate conservation efforts for every species. As such, species and populations must be prioritized for conservation.

By assessing the status and the nature of threats it is possible to focus conservation actions on selected target species, populations or areas. This will help keeping costs and management resources down to a minimum.

This module aims to provide guidance in how to identify and prioritize CWR species/populations and areas for targeted, in situ conservation interventions.




The process of selecting priority CWR species

There is no precise or agreed methodology for selecting species or populations for in situ conservation. Often, the selection is influenced by local requirements and circumstances, as well as the priorities of the agency responsible for implementing activities.

The questions below may be used to prioritize species for conservation based on their scientific, social, economic and cultural values.

  • What is the actual or potential use of the target species?
  • What is current conservation status of the target species?
  • Is the species endemic, with a restricted range or has largely distributed?
  • Is the species experiencing a continuing decline in its occurrence?
  • Is there evidence of genetic erosion?
  • Does the species have some unique characteristics in terms of ecogeographic, taxonomic or phyletic distinctiveness?
  • Does the species have cultural importance or is it of high social demand?
  • Does the species occur in a protected area or have protected status?

Source: Heywood, V.H. and Dulloo, M.E. [2006 (2005)] ‘In situ Conservation of Wild Plant Species – A Critical Global Review of Good Practices,’ IPGRI Technical Bulletin, no 11, FAO and IPGRI, International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPGRI), Rome, Italy

To top

Groups of criteria for priority setting

These criteria reflect variables contributing to a species’ status in terms of genetic value in relation to its cultivated relatives. Values can be assigned to each of the criteria to determine which are of most importance.

  • Threat - assesses the risk of extinction or any other threat to species’ viability.
  • Conservation - assesses the existence of management/ conservation programmes.
  • Genetic - assesses the genetic potential and the status in terms of species conservation.
  • Economic - assesses the economic importance of the species.
  • Utilization - assesses the social importance and the extent of traditional or other uses.

Source: Flor, A., Bettencourt, E., Arriegas, P. I. & Dias, S. (2006) ‘Indicators for the CWR species’ list prioritization (European crop wild relative criteria for conservation)’. In: Ford-Lloyd, B.V., Dias, S.R. & Bettencourt, E. (eds), Genetic Erosion and Pollution Assessment Methodologies. pp. 83–88. Proceedings of PGR Forum Workshop 5, Terceira Island, Autonomous Region of the Azores, Portugal, 8–11 September 2004, Published on behalf of the European Crop Wild Relative Diversity Assessment and Conservation Forum, by Bioversity International, Rome.

To top

Conservation status

Looking at the situation of CWR and the degree to which they are threatened is often referred to as determining their conservation status or assessment. The process involves a species’ distribution and range, population size, genetic variation, habitat availability, ecosystem health and any threats to its survival in the short-, medium- and long- term.

The international union for conservation of nature (IUCN) Red List Programme is the most commonly used system for assigning species conservation status; it is intended to focus on national and local, rather than international conservation actions.

IUCN categories of threat include:

  • Extinct (EX);
  • Extinct in the Wild (EW);
  • Critically Endangered (CR);
  • Endangered (EN);
  • Vulnerable (VU);
  • Near Threatened (NT);
  • Least Concern (LC);
  • Data Deficient (DD);
  • and; Not Evaluated (NE).

To top