CWR In Situ Strategy Helpdesk

National CWR flora methodology

Step 7: Implementation of in situ/ex situ CWR conservation priorities

The CWR gap analysis and subsequent development of the national CWR conservation priorities will have identified important CWR areas, sites to establish national CWR reserves and interesting CWR populations under-represented in ex situ collections. Thus far, the process has been focused at the national level but specific decisions will require implementation at the local level. Although ideal locations for CWR reserve sites may have been identified at a national level there is an obvious need to confirm on-site that the desired CWR diversity is actually present at the site. Although the location and establishment of specific CWR genetic reserves within existing protected areas is an ideal way forward given possible financial constraints, the creation of new protected areas for CWR conservation should not be excluded from consideration, especially as many CWR species are located in disturbed habitats that may not previously have been considered appropriate for the establishment of protected areas. The actual number of specific CWR genetic reserves will ultimately be pragmatic, dictated by the resources available for CWR in situ conservation. However, it is estimated that the establishment of a minimum of 5–10 key national CWR protected areas by those responsible for national protected area management, in association with those responsible for national plant genetic resource conservation, will facilitate in situ conservation of a significant proportion of the country’s CWR diversity.

As discussed above, the vast majority of protected areas in any country are likely to contain CWR, but these protected areas are likely to have been established to conserve habitats or mega-fauna, not CWR diversity. If the overall proportion of CWR in the flora is large, the chances of CWR occurring in individual conservation areas is also likely to be proportionally large. However, as the protected areas were not specifically established to conserve CWR, the number of CWR species monitored within these sites is unlikely to be large unless they are coincidentally also keystone or indicator species. Therefore, the management of the CWR species is passive and individual CWR populations may possibly decline or even be lost entirely. It is therefore important that if an existing protected area is provided with a designation as a 'national CWR genetic reserve', it is important that the management plan is amended to give priority to CWR population conservation within the reserve and positive action is triggered before any deleterious effect can impact on the CWR population.

When designating key national CWR protected areas, the sites will have been selected because they contain abundant and genetically diverse CWR populations; however, the management of these populations may conflict with the management required for the species that the protected area was originally designated to conserve (e.g., charismatic fauna, rare or threatened taxa, or a beautiful landscape). Therefore, amendment of the protected area management plan to accommodate the new priority species will need to avoid any detrimental effects on other sympatric species. The first step in formulating the revised management plan will be to observe the biotic and abiotic dynamics of the site for both CWR and non-CWR species. There will be a need to survey the species present in the ecosystem to help understand the ecological interactions within the reserve, a clear conservation goal should be decided and a means of implementation agreed that may involve some compromise between the priorities for CWR and non-CWR species conservation. Once established, the key national CWR protected areas provide an opportunity to monitor and assess short and longer term changes in CWR diversity. 

In terms of implementing the ex situ element of the CWR strategy, having identified which CWR populations are a priority for ex situ conservation, these populations should be sampled for complementary ex situ CWR conservation in gene banks.

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