382-1 A Global Perspective On Crop Wild Relatives: Distributions and Conservation Ex Situ.
Crop Wild Relatives (CWR), the wild and weedy relatives of cultivated plants, are increasingly valued for their contributions to crop breeding. Their usefulness is likely to grow further in the coming century as a result of climate change and associated food insecurity. It is perhaps surprising, given their estimated economic value to crop production of at least $115 billion dollars globally per year, that CWR germplasm is not more systematically conserved in ex situ genebank collections. We report on our research to gather and analyze data on the distributions of the CWR of important food crops worldwide in order to identify the geographic regions of highest priority for further collecting for ex situ conservation. Our global database contains over 5 million occurrence records for >5,000 taxa within the gene pools of the world's 80 most important crops. Distribution models for 1,000 taxa have enabled the identification of hotspots of CWR richness globally. Comparing these models to known locations of germplasm actively conserved ex situ (Ramírez-Villegas et al., 2010) enabled the generation of a global list of CWR taxa in critical need of ex situ conservation, as well as an assessment of the geographic regions where the diversity of such taxa should be given collection priority. These results are now being utilized in the global project Adapting Agriculture to Climate Change: Collecting, Protecting and Preparing Crop Wild Relatives in order to inform planning for conservation activities. The data and results of the initiative are being made openly available to the global community for further use for conservation and utilization of CWR genetic resources.
Ramirez-Villegas J., C. Khoury, A. Jarvis, D.G. Debouck, and L. Guarino. 2010. A gap analysis methodology for collecting crop genepools: a case study with Phaseolus beans. PLoS ONE 5(10):e1349.