HomePlantsCrop Wild Relatives in Sweden Lack Sufficient Protection

Crop Wild Relatives in Sweden Lack Sufficient Protection

Date: 10.09.2019 Author: Sara Landqvist Category: Plants
The biosphere area Vattenriket Kristianstad is a hot spot for crop wild relatives.

The biosphere area Vattenriket Kristianstad is a hot spot for crop wild relatives.

In a time when several international reports have risen concern for the fact that biological diversity is decreasing at unprecedented speed, the Nordic countries need to do much more to protect wild plant species closely related to our cultivated crops. Today, experts from several authorities, such as the Swedish Board of Agriculture and the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, met to discuss how these so-called crop wild relatives could be better protected in Sweden.

Although the city is merely a stone’s throw away, tranquility prevails at Naturum Vattenriket visitor’s center in Kristianstad. Rain clouds dominate the grey sky which is reflected in the calm water of Helge å. But it’s not only the beautiful view and tranquility that contributed to the decision of arranging the seminar about In situ conservation of crop wild relatives here. Vattenriket, in the southeastern part of Sweden, is one of the sites in the Nordic countries where a large part of the crop wild relatives can be found.

“A crop wild relative is defined as a wild species that is closely related to a cultivated crop. We in the Nordic countries have a responsibility of preserving these species as they have adapted to the unique Nordic environment. And we are dependent on these genetic resources, says Anna Palmé”, Senior Scientist at NordGen.

Important part of biological diversity

Crop wild relatives are an important part of the biological diversity, not least since they carry a broad genetic diversity needed to develop plants used in the agriculture. The problem is that, although a small portion of these plants are preserved NordGen’s freezers, there are no conservation efforts done for the areas where they grow naturally. This is important, at the one hand since it’s expensive to conserve in the freezers (ex situ) and on the other hand since the plants develop and adapt to their surroundings when conserved in their natural habitats, so-called in situ.

“Our analyses show that Sweden would need 212 protected areas to cover the most importantcrop wild relatives and their within-species. Some of these areas are already protected of other reasons. It wouldn’t take too much work for these areas also to include the crop wild relatives”, says Jens Weibull of the Swedish Agricultural Board.

Global task

Efforts to protect crop wild relatives already takes place in different areas all over the world. Each country’s responsibility to take care of and use these genetic resources is regulated in different international agreements such as the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Nagoya protocol, The International Treaty for Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG; 2.5). But to date, no practical efforts whatsoever is conducted for the active conservation of crop wild relatives in Sweden.

“Norway is about to start the work, Finland have great plans, but we also need to do something about this in Sweden. What we can see is that the plants growing here in the northern parts of the world are particularly exposed to climate change. They can’t go much further north when the mean temperature rise” says Anna Palmé.

Perennial wall-rocket is one of the crop wild relatives that thrive in the region Vattenriket.
Perennial wall-rocket is one of the crop wild relatives that thrive in the region Vattenriket.

Next step

At the seminar in Kristianstad, the participants discussed how the protection for crop wild relatives can be formed – if the current regulations can be used or if new laws are required. The next step for the participants at the seminar is to study the list of the identified prioritised crop wild relatives published in the Nordic report “Nordic Crop Wild Relative conservation: A report from two collaborative projects 2015-2019” and see how their institutions can contribute to create a protection for the species.