Climate change and the characterization, breeding and conservation of animal genetic resources

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SummaryLivestock production both contributes to and is affected by climate change. In addition to the physiological effects of higher temperatures on individual animals, the consequences of climate change are likely to include increased risk that geographically restricted rare breed populations will be badly affected by disturbances. Indirect effects may be felt via ecosystem changes that alter the distribution of animal diseases or affect the supply of feed. Breeding goals may have to be adjusted to account for higher temperatures, lower quality diets and greater disease challenge. Species and breeds that are well adapted to such conditions may become more widely used. Climate change mitigation strategies, in combination with ever increasing demand for food, may also have an impact on breed and species utilization, driving a shift towards monogastrics and breeds that are efficient converters of feed into meat, milk and eggs. This may lead to the neglect of the adaptation potential of local breeds in developing countries. Given the potential for significant future changes in production conditions and in the objectives of livestock production, it is essential that the value provided by animal genetic diversity is secured. This requires better characterization of breeds, production environments and associated knowledge; the compilation of more complete breed inventories; improved mechanisms to monitor and respond to threats to genetic diversity; more effective in situ and ex situ conservation measures; genetic improvement programmes targeting adaptive traits in high-output and performance traits in locally adapted breeds; increased support for developing countries in their management of animal genetic resources; and wider access to genetic resources and associated knowledge.

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