The role of genetic diversity for building resilience for food security


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At the Oxford Biodiversity Institute Symposium on 2-3 October 2013, Bioversity International Programme Leader Ehsan Dulloo presented on the importance of genetic diversity for building resilience for crops. Learn more:

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  • What is agricultural biodiversity?The variety and variability of animals, plants and micro-organisms that are used directly or indirectly for food and agriculture, including crops, livestock, forestry and fisheries. It comprises the diversity of genetic resources (varieties, breeds) and species used for food, fodder, fibre, fuel and pharmaceuticals. It also includes the diversity of non-harvested species that support production (soil micro-organisms, predators, pollinators), and those in the wider environment that support agro-ecosystems (agricultural, pastoral, forest and aquatic) as well as the diversity of the agro-ecosystems.-Source: FAO, 1999aAlso includes farmers’ knowledge about this diversity and the means of preserving it.
  • We can think of Agrobiodiversity then as a social-ecological system (SES). A system that includes societal and ecological subsystems in mutual interaction, an ecological system intricately linked with and affected by one or more social systems (Fisher et al. 2013; Gallopin, 2006; Nguyen, 2013 (unpublished)).Resilience is a property of these SES that expresses their capacity to withstand shocks and rebuild themselves when necessary.So, when we talk about genetic diversity in Agrobiodiversity in relation to resilience and food security we are referring to how maintaining and strengthening genetic diversity within ABD will increase the ability for food systems to adapt and transform in the face of global change, shocks, instability and variability. Genetic diversity maintains the genetic health of important species, breeds, and varieties across landscapesIt supports the ability of farmers in a variety of settings to utilize more diverse options for adapting to various kinds of change and shocks such as those driven by market fluctuations, natural disasters, and global climate change.Maintaining future options through maonatenance of such diversity is therefore key.
  • Genetic variation is important in maintaining the adaptive potential of species /populations and the fitness of individuals to help ensure their survival.In this respect, the concept coined by Faith et al. of evosystem services is important. Such services is provided by evolutionary processes. An evolutionary perspective is essential for developing a better understanding of the links between biodiversity and human well-being. “Just as maintaining healthy ecosystems ensures the availability of clean water and other ecosystem services into the future, maintaining healthy evosystems will ensure that other crucial services are available into the future.” When extended to agrobiodiversity can highlight the value of increased genetic diversity to utility or services provided to humans.In essense then a higher genetic diversity provides more option for future adaptations, which in turns helps to maintian and increase food and nutritional security.
  • Yet despite the importance of crop genetic diversity, there is still a world wide concern about the loss of genetic diversity. Many global conventions treaties and plan of actions have been develop to address the loss of genetic diversity In its preamble the international treaty is alarmed by the genetic erosion The Second GPAon PGRFA mentions that GE is reported to continue many regions of the world and the genetic vulnerability of crops has further increasedThe Strategic plan on Biodiversity 20111-2020 has dedicate one of the 20 target (Target 13) to contain genetic erosion among cultivated plants farmed and domesticated animals and their wild relatives including other socio economic valuable species GPAonAnGR ??
  • Bioversity has carried out many studies on genetic erosion in the past. These are just a few examples, which have demonstrated significant lost of genetic diversity in the target crops.
  • A survey to study genetic erosion in pearl millet carried out by Bioversity in RajasthanIndia, revealed a lost of 25-75% of diversity in farmers fields due t=to replacement by high yielding varieties.
  • Yet in a study on genetic erosion in millets and sorghum in west Africa, by French scientist (IRD), over a 20 year period showed that while many varieties were replaced by modern one, overall diversity did not changed in terms of varietal names and molecular markers employed.
  • Current Measurements and Indicators (Crops)Primarily focus on ex-situ gene banks: Do not measure state or trends of diversity at the genetic level in real world agro ecosystemsEx situ studies: Oritz et al. 2003; Roussel et al. 2004; Donini et al. 2000; Christiansen et al 2002; Huang et al 2007; Le Clerc et al. 2006Existing FAO Indicators: indicators developed for monitoring progress in the implementation of second GPA.
  • In-situ measurements have been lacking in their capacity to encompass a sufficient breadth of genetic diversity characteristics.In situ – indices: Number of Varieties (OECD, 2001; Jarvis et al., 2008) Shannon index (Martynov et al, 2006; Brennan and Bialowas, 2001), Simpson index, Pielou’s hierarchical diversity index (Meul et al.,2005), Nei index (Roussel et al., 2004 and 2005). (None of these combine the study of allelic diversity and a concern on evenness of the spatial distribution of alleles (Bonneuii et al. 281)).
  • Recently French scientists (Bonneuil et al, 2012) have developed a new integrative indicator HT* that takes account of varietal richness, spatial evenness, between-, and within-variety genetic diversity. This index is compared to existing indexes using a comprehensive historical dataset from a French territory dating back to 1878. The study reveals that more varieties (the varietal richness factor) can mean less diversity when their genetic structure is more similar (the effect of between-variety genetic diversity), or when more diverse landraces are replaced by many homogeneous lines (the effect of within-variety genetic diversity) or when one or a few varieties become hegemonic in the landscape (the spatial evenness effect).  Furthermore, an increased evenness in variety distribution (varietal evenness) can also mean less diversity when varieties are genetically related. Bonneuil, 2012: A new integrative indicator to assess crop genetic diversity
  • Another project is the Socio-ecological production landscapes, which are dynamic mosaics landscapes with habitats and land uses including villages, farmland and adjacent woods, forest grassland, wetlands and coastal areas. The point is that these landscape shaped by interaction of human and nature maintain biodiversity and provide humans with goods and services needed for their well being. The project is led by United Nations University –Institute of advanced studies and Bioversity as collaborative activity under the International Partnership for Satoyama Initiatives (IPSI)
  • In these landscapes, communities create resilience with practices that further their well being and also support key ecosystem functions and biodiversity. To support these processes, a set of 20 indicators has been developed to provide a tool for communities to understand their resilience and encourage practices that strengthen it. They help measure their capacity to build resilience while maintaining biodiversity. The indicators measure four elements of the landscape :Ecosystems protection and the maintenance of biodiversityAgricultural biodiversityKnowledge, learning and innovationSocial equity and infrastructure
  • In the context of expanding the genomics observatories network, I see real opportunities for building global networks of monitoring for ABD and strengthening Food Security, provided through the research programmes within the ABD community. In particular, the CGIAR Research Programs are already operating in a number of key sites which have been identified to create the greatest impact in ens8uring food security and poverty alleviation. Also the forest genetic resources community have several networks that have been also developing processes for genetic monitoring:EVOLTREE: Network of Intensive Study Sites (ISS)Large scale ecosystem plots (a few thousands of hectares) where trees and selected associated species are mapped, genotyped, and pheontyped. Sits comprise entire portions of landscapes (ag to woodland) Five ISSs (Borel, temperate, Mediterranean, alpine, riparian) (one untouched site, one heavily managed)Objectives : Set up of an european network of sites for long term research on the evolution of biodiversity at different hierarchical levels (from genes to phenotypes, from populations to community)Assess the spatial structure of biodiversity at various scales and at different hierarchical levelsMonitor the population dynamics through demographic and genetic approaches, in trees and their associated species, over different spatial scalesMonitor the interaction between species (trees, other plants, vertebrates, insects and microorganism)Provide a large-scale support for training, education and dissemination activitiesEUFORGEN and EUFGISNew draft report on methods and options for creating a new pan-European genetic monitoring system for the dynamic conservation units of forest trees. Development of new approaches for Identification of genetic monitoring regionsSelection of genetic monitoring units within regions of European dynamic conservation unitsDesign of genetic monitoring plotsSelection of indicators and verifiers to be used. This includes maintenance and expansion of the EUFGIS project (April 2007-March 2011) created an online information system for forest genetic resources (FGR) inventories in Europe to support the countries in their efforts to implement FGR conservation as part of sustainable forest managementCRP 6 Sentinel LandscapesCGIAR Research Program 6: Forests, Trees and AgroforestryThe Centre for International Forestry Research, the World Agroforestry Centre, the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture and Bioversity, together with a number of partnersProposed long term monitoring of landscapes for cross-regional comparisons integrating biophysical and social dataSeen as potential opportunities to undertake joint activities among the CRPs
  • The role of genetic diversity for building resilience for food security

    1. 1. The role of genetic diversity for building resilience for food security Ehsan Dulloo PhD., Mary Thompson, Bioversity International University of Oxford, UK, 2-3 October 2013
    2. 2. 2 Bioversity International is a research-for-development organization seeking solutions to global issues through the use and conservation of agricultural and forest biodiversity.
    3. 3. What is agricultural biodiversity (ABD)? Variety of animals, plants and microorganisms that are used directly or indirectly for food and agriculture including crops, livestock, forestry and fisheries. Also farmers’ knowledge and experience regarding this diversity and it’s management. Global biodiversity Biodiversity affected by agriculture Agricultural biodiversity ABD: a significant subset of global biodiversity
    4. 4. • ABD as a socio-ecological system (SES) • Resilience property of SES • Genetic diversity in ABD will increase the ability for food systems to adapt and transform in the face of global changes and shocks • Maintain genetic health of species, breeds and varieties across landscape • Supports ability of farmers to respond to shocks market fluctuations, natural disasters and global climate change Agricultural biodiversity and resilience
    5. 5. Why is genetic variation important? • Maintain adaptive potential of species/populations and the fitness of individuals to help ensure their survival • “Evosystems services” perspective (Faith et al, 2010) • High genetic diversity = increased future options for food security
    6. 6. Global concern about the loss of genetic diversity (both ex situ collections and in situ populations) • International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture “Alarmed by the continuing erosion of these resources” [i.e. PGRFA] • Global Plan of Action on Conservation and Sustainable Use of Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture “Genetic erosion is reported to continue many regions of the world and the genetic vulnerability of crops has further increased”. • Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 Aichi Target 13: By 2020, the genetic diversity of cultivated plants and farmed and domesticated animals and of wild relatives, including other socio-economically as well as culturally valuable species, is maintained, and strategies have been developed and implemented for minimizing genetic erosion and safeguarding their genetic diversity. No clear (rather conflicting) evidence of actual loss of diversity is occurring overall (van de Wouw et al. 2009)
    7. 7. Baseline studies • Genetic erosion of coffee genetic resources in field collection (Madagascar, Ethiopia, Costa Rica) • Genetic erosion in coconut (South Asia), pearl millet (Rajasthan), soybean (China) • Spatial analysis of molecular data: Cherimoya in the Andes • Genetic Erosion of Cassava in the Peruvian Amazon • Decline in the numbers of local rice varieties in China from 46,000 in the 1950s to slightly more than 1,000 in 2006 (Secretariat of the CBD, 2010); similar statistics are available for India and Vietnam
    8. 8. Genetic erosion in pearl millet • Rapid survey using participatory approach with 459 farmers across 174 villages in 14 pearl millet growing districts in Rajasthan Province of India in 2002 • ICRISAT collecting database were used for the identification of the survey sites; three zones were identified: • 25- 75% replacement by high yielding varieties • Analysis indicated genetic erosion of land races based on: • Low yield of landraces • Promotion of high yielding varieties • Changing cropping patterns • No organized seed system for landraces • Market preference for HYV
    9. 9. No change in diversity – case of pearl millet and sorghum in Niger - Bezançon et al. 2009 Many local varieties of millets and sorghum in Niger were replaced by improved ones, but overall diversity of pearl millet and sorghum varieties has not changed between 1976 and 2003 in the terms of varietal names and DNA markers (Bezançon et al. 2009) 2003 1976 50-55 days 55-60 days 60-65 days 65-70 days 70-75 days 75-80 days 80+ days
    10. 10. Based on these studies : • It is clear that genetic erosion is of concern but evidence is still lacking about: – rate of loss – variation among crops, situations – economic implications • Monitoring changes in genetic diversity and analyzing causes of change is still needed
    11. 11. Challenges in understanding trends in genetic diversity “You can’t manage what you don’t measure” (Peter Drucker) There is no global, harmonized observation system for delivering regular, timely data on agricultural biodiversity change Different organizations and projects adopt diverse measurements, with some important biodiversity dimensions, such as genetic diversity, often missing Only limited information available regarding actual threat status Conventional monitoring efforts, where they exist at all: • subject to ad hoc approaches that lack rigorous survey and sampling approaches • do not systematically involve the participation of local-level actors • usually based on collections instead of direct observations in the field
    12. 12. Current measurements and indicators (crops) • Primarily focus on ex situ genebanks – Do not measure state or trends of diversity at the genetic level in real world agroecosystems • FAO indicators – monitoring progress of the implementation of second Global Plan of Action. 66 indicators covering 4 main areas viz. – In situ conservation and management (12 indicators) – Ex situ conservation (12 indicators) – Sustainable use (22 indicators) – Building institutional and human capacities (20 indicators)
    13. 13. • No. of species • No. of accessions within collections • Geographical origin of accessions BIP: Ex situ collection indicator Principle: Accessions entering the collection can be characterized for their originality Index: An integrative function reflecting the collection’s enrichment Any new accessions entering the collection at a given time is compared to the accessions already present: • Is it a new species? • Does it come from a new area? The more original it is, the more weight it is given. The weight is based on a log function so that it decreases when a species is well represented. Enrichment Index of ex situ crop collections as an indicator on the status and trend of crop genetic diversity
    14. 14. Indicators for in situ diversity • In situ measurements have been lacking in their capacity to encompass a sufficient breadth of genetic diversity characteristics • Number of varieties • Diversity Indices- Shannon, Simpson, Pielou’s, Nei, • None of these combine the study of allelic diversity and a concern on evenness of the spatial distribution of alleles
    15. 15. Global indicators: Significant traditional variety diversity continues to be managed by small scale farmers in the developing world. Jarvis et al., 2009 PNAS Hungary, Mexico, Peru • -LN(1-Farm evenness) •0.0 •0.5 •1.0 •1.5 •2.0 •LNFarmrichness •0.0 •0.5 •1.0 •1.5 •2.0 A B 2-3 2-3 39-89 4-20 5-14 1-2 4-5 9-74 Morocco, Ethiopia 1-2 4-12 1-2 5-27 4-5 15-28 Burkina faso Nepal and Vietnam Peru Community Richness House Hold richness Richness = 9 Evenness A > B 2-3 9-18 Uzbekistan 3-5 6-19 Leading the collaboration of >60 institutes world wide
    16. 16. • HT Integrated Indicator- Bonneuil et al. (2012) – Varietal richness, Spatial evenness; Effect of between-variety genetic diversity; Within- variety genetic diversity • Tested against a historical dataset on bread wheat varieties dating back to 1978: Allelic diversity; Acreage share of each variety; Contribution of within variety diversity to total genetic diversity • More varieties (the varietal richness factor) can mean less diversity when (i) their genetic structure is more similar (the effect of between-variety genetic diversity), or (ii) when more diverse landraces are replaced by many homogeneous lines (the effect of within-variety genetic diversity) or (iii) when one or a few varieties become hegemonic in the landscape (the spatial evenness effect) A New Integrated indicator
    17. 17. Indicators for Resilience in SEPLs: Development and Field Testing
    18. 18. • Measuring community’s capacity to adapt to change while maintaining biodiversity. Four categories comprising 20 indicators on: • Ecosystems protection and the maintenance of biodiversity • Agricultural biodiversity • Knowledge, learning and innovation • Social equity and infrastructure • Developing strategies for • Conserving biodiversity at various scales (from genetic to landscape level) • Sustaining evolution and adaptation processes that maintain and generate diversity • Empowering local communities and strengthening their role as innovators and custodians of biodiversity Socio-ecological resilience indicators
    19. 19. Linking initiatives to genomic observatories and networks • CGIAR Research Programs established research sites upon which to build future networks • Examples from the forestry sector – EVOLTREE: Network of Intensive Study Sites (ISS) – EUFORGEN and EUFGIS – CRP 6 Sentinel Landscapes
    20. 20. High Priority locations identified in SSA: • finger millet (Burundi, DRC, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda), • pearl millet (Sudan), • garden peas (Ethiopia) cowpea in several countries Priority Areas for Crop Wild Relatives Global priority genetic reserve locations for wild relatives of 12 food crops
    21. 21. • Genetic diversity is important for building resilience for crops and landscape level- sustaining evolutionary processes • Global concerns of genetic erosion- conflicting evidences • Challenges in genetic monitoring • Much has been done in the past to document genetic diversity across a whole range of scale –ex situ, in situ, on farm, production landscape, forest gene conservation units • Opportunities for expanding genomic network to cover agrobiodiversity sites • Contribute to Strategic plan for Biodiversity - Aichi target 13 Take home message
    22. 22. Thank you