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Food Stores: Using protected areas to secure crop genetic diversity (Arguments For Protection Series No. 3)

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This report is third in a series looking at the wider benefits of protected areas. It examines the role of protected areas in protected crop wild relatives and landraces for agricultural stability. The report includes examples and case studies, as well as guidelines for protected area managers. ////// Protected areas can play a role in in-situ conservation strategies of agricultural genetic diversity. Although the links between food security and protected areas have rarely been made explicit, this research demonstrates that protected areas are important in maintaining the stability in agricultural systems. Just as botanic gardens in countries with colder climates often stimulate interest in the general public by including specimens of crops to show what a banana, coffee or rice plant looks like, so protected area managers can raise the profile of their protected areas by paying attention to native crop wild relatives (CWR) species and advertising their presence to the user communities. Many protected areas also encompass cultivated lands. Increased recognition of the social, environmental and economic value of these landraces adds an important dimension to the areas. This report therefore looks at how protected area managers can find which CWR species are present in the protected area they manage and how they might adapt management practices to facilitate conservation of CWR and landraces. The report also includes an analysis of the protection status of those ecoregions, as identified by WWF, which are particularly important for the conservation of crop genetic diversity. In total 29 (82%) of the 34 ecoregions that include major centres of crop diversity have protection levels of under 10%, and six areas (18%) have protection levels of one percent or less. Coupled with evidence of high levels of habitat conversion in many of these areas, it would seem that governments and the international community should be giving far higher priority to crop genetic diversity when deciding the location of protected areas.

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