The assessment of biodiversity loss over time: Wild legumes in Syria

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Abstract

The conservation community has been set a considerable challenge by way of the CBD (Convention on Biological Diversity) 2010 targets. This may not be achievable by 2010 as demanded by the CBD, but at least methodologies can be assessed with a view to their implementation, so that loss of biodiversity and its inherent genetic diversity can be reduced post 2010. There is therefore a need to develop and implement protocols to efficiently measure genetic erosion and to make the identification of the drivers of erosion clear enabling counter-measures to be taken. In this paper the applicability of the indirect genetic erosion threat assessment for wild populations of rare and endemic Vicia species has been investigated. The method applied was based on the scoring of 18 factors perceived to be threats in the 18 study sites in two regions of Syria. Both temporal and spatial patterns of genetic erosion were considered. The method clearly detected spatial patterns of threat, enabling discrimination between the study sites located in the two study regions. However, no significant variation among the sites within each region was detected, highlighting the restricted spatial resolution of the method. Most importantly the results were in agreement with population demographic change observed, confirmed by a highly significant correlation between the erosion threat score and the relative population size change over the last 20 years. The results confirm the great potential of indirect genetic erosion threat assessment in routine evidence-based wild plant conservation decision-making.

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