Ex situ and in situ conservation gap analysis of crop wild relative diversity in the Fertile Crescent of the Middle East

Wathek Zair, Nigel Maxted, Joana Magos Brehm, Ahmed Amri

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Crop wild relatives (CWRs) are important reservoirs of adaptive traits for crop breeding programmes. Both ex situ and in situ conservation approaches should be deployed to ensure CWR availability for use. This paper aims to (a) create a regional database of occurrence records for the 441 priority CWRs in the Fertile Crescent, (b) identify CWR-rich areas in the Fertile Crescent, (c) recommend locations to implement genetic reserves intended for CWRs active in situ conservation and (d) undertake ex situ and in situ conservation gap analyses. The study area comprises Jordan, Syria, Palestine/Israel, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq. Occurrence records of the 441 priority CWR within the Fertile Crescent were gathered from herbaria, gene banks and online databases. Gaps in the current ex situ and in situ conservation were identified. Hotspots of CWR diversity were identified, and complementary analysis was carried out to identify areas for in situ conservation using DIVA-GIS. Then proposed genetic reserves were compared with the existing protected areas to establish genetic reserve areas whether within or outside the protected areas. A total of 23,878 occurrence records were collated for 441 CWR priorities. The first priority grid square is located in Syria near Tal Kalakh City, close to the Lebanese border from the north. The second priority site is located in Turkey’s Izmir Province near Kemal Atatürk Mahallesi. The third priority site is located in Turkey’s Sahinbey/Gaziantep Province. The ex situ gap analysis revealed that of the 441 taxa, 134 (30%) CWRs are totally absent from the current gene banks collections. Only 307 (70%) CWRs are represented in gene banks, and, of these taxa, 252 (57%) of them have less than 10 accessions in gene banks. A total of 353 taxa were categorised as a high priority for collection and conservation; 23 taxa were categorised as a medium priority and 41 taxa as a low priority. However, 24 taxa were identified that did not require urgent collection (see Supplementary Table 7). The most important areas for a further collection of ex situ conservation are located in the west and south of Turkey across the Mediterranean seashore, north of Lebanon and west of Syria (in Lattakia and Tartus Governorate), across the border between Turkey and Syria and northern Iraq. Ten genetic reserves are recommended in the Fertile Crescent for CWR conservation. The results and methods used will help meet the conservation targets of CWR in the Fertile Crescent; they will also help achieve global food security.
Original languageEnglish
JournalGenetic Resources and Crop Evolution
Early online date4 Oct 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 4 Oct 2020


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