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The most important approach for preserving CWR species is in situ conservation, where the species is maintained in its natural environment. In this case the species can continue to adapt to environmental and climatic changes. In addition, there is a potential to maintain a large amount of variation and thereby future evolutionary potential. Furthermore, many species can be conserved at the same time in one location, making conservation efficient. Also ex situ conservation in genebanks has an important role for CWRs. A back-up sample can be conserved ex situ for the event that the in situ population will go extinct. The sample at the gene bank can then be used to re-introduce the population into the wild, or long-term conservation with regeneration can be initiated in the genebank.
In many ways CWR conservation is similar to conservation of other wild species; however the aspect of use is different. Compared to other wild species, CWRs have an additional role in food production, or in some cases medicine, forestry, energy production etc. To be able to realise this role, the CWRs need to be easily accessible to the stakeholders using this resource, for example to improve agricultural production.
Aim: CWR taxa can be conserved both in situ and ex situ, ideally the main conservation method being in situ backed up by ex situ conservation. The aim of CWR conservation is to maintain maximum genetic diversity of the species for future use. This can be achieved by carefully planning the conservation and by undertaking relevant and sufficient management and monitoring of the populations in conservation areas set for this purpose. Whether CWR conservation takes place in situ or ex situ, practices facilitating use need to be put into place.
Approaches: CWR conservation planning generally follows a widely used methodology including: defining the target taxa and target region; preparation of national checklist and inventory; prioritizing the checklist to select most the important CWR species to be targeted with conservation action; undertaking ecogeographic and genetic diversity analysis, identifying threats to CWR diversity, analysing in situ and ex situ conservation gaps to identify ideal conservation and collection sites and finally formulating a CWR action, management, monitoring and access plan.