By Cecilia Gonzalez-Paredes
21 April 2011 at 1:00pm in GIOS 401
Committee: Ann Kinzig (Chair), Rimjhin Aggarwal, and Netra Chhetri
Since the Convention on Biological Diversity was established in 1992, more importance has been given to the conservation of genetic resources in the international community. In 2001, the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (PGRFA) focused on conserving plant genetic resources, including crop wild relatives (CWR). Some of these genetic resources hold desirable traits—such as transfer of plant disease resistance, improvement of nutritional content, or increased resistance to climate change--that can improve commercial crops. For many years, ex situ conservation was the prevalent form of protecting plant genetic resources. However, after PGRFA was published in 1998, in situ techniques have increasingly been applied to conserve wild relatives and enhance domesticated crops. In situ techniques are preferred when possible, since they allow for continued evolution of traits through natural selection, and viability of seed stock through continuous germination and regeneration.
In my research, I identified regions in Bolivia and rated them according to their potential for successful programs of in situ conservation of wild crop relatives. In particular, I analyzed areas according to the following criteria:
a. The prevalence of CWRs
b. The impacts of climate change, land use change, population growth, and economic development on the continued viability of CWRs in an area
c. The socio-political and economic conditions that might impede or facilitate successful conservation programs and outcomes.
This work focuses on three genera of particular importance in Bolivia: Peanut (Arachis spp.), Potato (Solanum spp.) and Quinoa (Chenopodium spp.). I analyzed the above factors for each municipality in Bolivia (the smallest scale for which appropriate data were available). The results indicate which municipalities are most likely to successfully engage in CWR conservation projects. Finally, I present guidelines for the creation of conservation projects that pinpoint some of the potential risks and difficulties with in situ conservation programs in Bolivia and more generally.