Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: In-situ conservation


Precise modelling of the influence of climate change on Arabica coffee is limited; there are no data available for indigenous populations of this species. In this study we model the present and future predicted distribution of indigenous Arabica, and identify priorities in order to facilitate appropriate decision making for conservation, monitoring and future research. Using distribution data we perform bioclimatic modelling and examine future distribution with the HadCM3 climate model for three emission scenarios (A1B, A2A, B2A) over three time intervals (2020, 2050, 2080). The models show a profoundly negative influence on indigenous Arabica. In a locality analysis the most favourable outcome is a c. 65% reduction in the number of pre-existing bioclimatically suitable localities, and at worst an almost 100% reduction, by 2080. In an area analysis the most favourable outcome is a 38% reduction in suitable bioclimatic space, and the least favourable a c. 90% reduction, by 2080. Based on known occurrences and ecological tolerances of Arabica, bioclimatic unsuitability would place populations in peril, leading to severe stress and a high risk of extinction. This study establishes a fundamental baseline for assessing the consequences of climate change on wild populations of Arabica coffee. Specifically, it: (1) identifies and categorizes localities and areas that are predicted to be under threat from climate change now and in the short- to medium-term (2020-2050), representing assessment priorities for ex situ conservation; (2) identifies ‘core localities’ that could have the potential to withstand climate change until at least 2080, and therefore serve as long-term in situ storehouses for coffee genetic resources; (3) provides the location and characterization of target locations (populations) for on-the-ground monitoring of climate change influence. Arabica coffee is confimed as a climate sensitivite species, supporting data and inference that existing plantations will be neagtively impacted by climate change.

Concepts: Time, Conservation biology, Coffee, Endangered species, Caffeine, In-situ conservation, Coffea arabica, Coffea


Medicinal plants are globally valuable sources of herbal products, and they are disappearing at a high speed. This article reviews global trends, developments and prospects for the strategies and methodologies concerning the conservation and sustainable use of medicinal plant resources to provide a reliable reference for the conservation and sustainable use of medicinal plants. We emphasized that both conservation strategies (e.g. in situ and ex situ conservation and cultivation practices) and resource management (e.g. good agricultural practices and sustainable use solutions) should be adequately taken into account for the sustainable use of medicinal plant resources. We recommend that biotechnical approaches (e.g. tissue culture, micropropagation, synthetic seed technology, and molecular marker-based approaches) should be applied to improve yield and modify the potency of medicinal plants.

Concepts: Pharmacology, Biodiversity, Conservation biology, Agriculture, Herbalism, Herb, Sustainability, In-situ conservation


Integrating the conservation of biodiversity by smallholder farmers with agricultural intensification is increasingly recognized as a leading priority of sustainability and food security amid global environmental and socioeconomic change. An international research project investigated the smallholder agrobiodiversity of maize (corn) in a global hotspot (Bolivia) undergoing significant intensification. Peach-based intensification was pronounced (300-400%) and prolonged (2000-2010) in study areas. Intensification and maize agrobiodiversity were found to co-occur within smallholder landscapes. Interactions of these field systems did not trigger land-change tipping points leading to landrace extirpation. By 2010 maize landraces in the study areas still demonstrated high levels of taxonomic and ecological biodiversity and contributed significantly to this crop’s agrobiodiversity at national (31%) and hemispheric (3%) scales. Social and ecological resilience and in situ conservation of the maize agrobiodiversity by Bolivian smallholders was enabled through robust linkages to off-farm migration; resource access and asset capabilities among both traditional and nontraditional growers; landrace agroecology and food uses; and innovative knowledge and skills. The smallholders' resilience resulting from these linkages was integral to the conditional success of the in situ conservation of maize agrobiodiversity. Environment-development interactions both enabled smallholders' agrobiodiversity resilience and influenced the limits and vulnerability of agrobiodiversity. Scientific policy recommendations regarding land-use planning and sustainability analysis are targeted to specific Río+20 priorities for agrobiodiversity.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Conservation biology, Agriculture, Ecology, Sustainability, Food security, In-situ conservation, Landrace


Conservation breeding programmes have become an increasingly important tool to save endangered species, yet despite the allocation of significant resources, efforts to create self-sustaining populations have met with limited success. The iconic giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) embodies the struggles associated with ex situ species conservation. Here we show that behavioural mate preferences in giant pandas predict reproductive outcomes. Giant pandas paired with preferred partners have significantly higher copulation and birth rates. Reproductive rates increase further when both partners show mutual preference for one another. If managers were to incorporate mate preferences more fully into breeding management, the production of giant panda offspring for China’s reintroduction programme might be greatly expedited. When extended to the increasing numbers of species dependent on ex situ conservation breeding to avoid extinction, our findings highlight that mate preference and other aspects of informed behavioural management could make the difference between success and failure of these programmes.

Concepts: Endangered species, In-situ conservation, Giant Panda, Bear, Conservation reliant species, Ex-situ conservation, Ailuropoda, Zoo


Crop wild relatives have a long history of use in potato breeding, particularly for pest and disease resistance, and are expected to be increasingly used in the search for tolerance to biotic and abiotic stresses. Their current and future use in crop improvement depends on their availability in ex situ germplasm collections. As these plants are impacted in the wild by habitat destruction and climate change, actions to ensure their conservation ex situ become ever more urgent. We analyzed the state of ex situ conservation of 73 of the closest wild relatives of potato (Solanum section Petota) with the aim of establishing priorities for further collecting to fill important gaps in germplasm collections. A total of 32 species (43.8%), were assigned high priority for further collecting due to severe gaps in their ex situ collections. Such gaps are most pronounced in the geographic center of diversity of the wild relatives in Peru. A total of 20 and 18 species were assessed as medium and low priority for further collecting, respectively, with only three species determined to be sufficiently represented currently. Priorities for further collecting include: (i) species completely lacking representation in germplasm collections; (ii) other high priority taxa, with geographic emphasis on the center of species diversity; (iii) medium priority species. Such collecting efforts combined with further emphasis on improving ex situ conservation technologies and methods, performing genotypic and phenotypic characterization of wild relative diversity, monitoring wild populations in situ, and making conserved wild relatives and their associated data accessible to the global research community, represent key steps in ensuring the long-term availability of the wild genetic resources of this important crop.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Conservation biology, Agriculture, Evolution, Species, Endangered species, In-situ conservation, Conservation


Males will alter their mating behavior to cope with the presence of their competitors. Even exposure to odors from potential competitors can greatly increase male ejaculate expenditure in a variety of animals including insects, fishes, birds and rodents. Major efforts have been made to examine males' plastic responses to sperm competition and its fitness benefits. However, the effects of competitor absence on male’s sexual motivation and behaviors remain unclear, which has been proposed to be one of the causes for the poor sexual performance of some captive mammals. This study revealed that sexual motivation can be greatly enhanced in captive male giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) by exposure to chemosensory cues from either one or three conspecifics males. It had been shown that potential rivals' odors increased males' chemosensory investigation behavior, as well as their observing, following and sniffing behaviors towards estrous females. Behaviors changed regardless of the number of rivals (one or three). Our results demonstrate the effects of potential competition on male giant pandas' sexual motivation and behavioral coping strategy. We anticipate that our research will provide a fresh insight into the mechanisms underlying poor sexual performance in male captive mammals, and valuable information for the practical management and ex situ conservation of endangered species.

Concepts: Human, Competition, Endangered species, Behavior, Human behavior, In-situ conservation, Giant Panda, Zoo


Ensuring the availability of the broadest possible germplasm base for agriculture in the face of increasingly uncertain and variable patterns of biotic and abiotic change is fundamental for the world’s future food supply. While ex situ conservation plays a major role in the conservation and availability of crop germplasm, it may be insufficient to ensure this. In situ conservation aims to maintain target species and the collective genotypes they represent under evolution. A major rationale for this view is based on the likelihood that continued exposure to changing selective forces will generate and favor new genetic variation and an increased likelihood that rare alleles that may be of value to future agriculture are maintained. However, the evidence that underpins this key rationale remains fragmented and has not been examined systematically, thereby decreasing the perceived value and support for in situ conservation for agriculture and food systems and limiting the conservation options available. This study reviews evidence regarding the likelihood and rate of evolutionary change in both biotic and abiotic traits for crops and their wild relatives, placing these processes in a realistic context in which smallholder farming operates and crop wild relatives continue to exist. It identifies areas of research that would contribute to a deeper understanding of these processes as the basis for making them more useful for future crop adaptation.

Concepts: Genetics, Natural selection, Biodiversity, Conservation biology, Agriculture, Evolution, In-situ conservation, Ex-situ conservation


Ex situ conservation tools, such as captive breeding for reintroduction, are considered last resort to help recover threatened or endangered species. However, they may also provide alternative strategies where reducing threats directly is difficult or ineffective. Headstarting, or captive rearing of eggs or neonate animals and subsequent release into the wild, has been controversial for decades. A major criticism is that headstarting is a symptomatic treatment of conservation problems (halfway technology), however, it may provide a mechanism to address multiple threats, particularly in close proximity of population centres. Here we conduct Population Viability Analyses (PVA) to assess the risk of extinction of Australia’s most widespread freshwater turtle, Chelodina longicollis, to increasing adult road mortality and reduced recruitment through nest predation from introduced foxes. We also model a range of management scenarios to test the effectiveness of headstarting, fox management, and measures that reduce adult road mortality. We show that headstarting should be a primary tool for managing freshwater turtles under threats that affect multiple life history stages. Headstarting from harvest populations were the only scenarios that eliminated all risks of extinction, while also maintaining population growth. Small increments in adult mortality have greatest effect on population growth and extinction risk, however, where threats simultaneously affect other life history stages (e.g.. recruitment), eliminating harvest pressures on adult females alone will not eliminate the risk of population extinction. In our models, one harvest population could supply enough hatchlings to supplement 25 other similar sized populations at an annual rate to maintain population growth and eliminate the risk of population extinction. We advocate the creation of harvest populations for managing freshwater turtles facing significant threats to multiple life history stages. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Concepts: Conservation biology, Population, Population ecology, Turtle, Endangered species, Extinction, In-situ conservation, Ex-situ conservation


Climate change is likely to be one of the most important factors affecting our future food security. To mitigate negative impacts, we will require our crops to be more genetically diverse. Such diversity is available in crop wild relatives (CWRs), the wild taxa relatively closely related to crops and from which diverse traits can be transferred to the crop. Conservation of such genetic resources resides within the nation where they are found; therefore, national-level conservation recommendations are fundamental to global food security. We investigate the potential impact of climate change on CWR richness in Norway. The consequences of a 1.5 and 3.0 °C temperature rise were studied for the years 2030, 2050, 2070, 2080 and then compared to the present climate. The results indicate a pattern of shifting CWR richness from the south to the north, with increases in taxa turnover and in the numbers of threatened taxa. Recommendations for in situ and ex situ conservation actions over the short and long term for the priority CWRs in Norway are presented. The methods and recommendations developed here can be applied within other nations and at regional and global levels to improve the effectiveness of conservation actions and help ensure global food security.

Concepts: Conservation biology, Agriculture, Maize, Food security, In-situ conservation, Conservation, Ex-situ conservation, Crop wild relative


Captive breeding programs are often a necessity for the continued persistence of a population or species. They typically have the goal of maintaining genetic diversity and minimizing inbreeding. However, most captive breeding programs have been based on the assumption that the founding breeders are unrelated and outbred, even though in situ anthropogenic impacts often mean these founders may have high relatedness and substantial inbreeding. In addition, polygamous group-breeding species in captivity often have uncertain pedigrees, making it difficult to select the group composition for subsequent breeding. Molecular-based estimates of relatedness and inbreeding may instead be use to select breeding groups (≥ two individuals) that minimize relatedness and filter out inbred individuals. SWINGER constructs breeding groups based on molecular estimates of relatedness and inbreeding. The number of possible combinations of breeding groups quickly becomes intractable by hand. SWINGER was designed to overcome this major issue in ex situ conservation biology. The user can specify parameters within SWINGER to reach breeding solutions that suit the mating system of the target species and available resources. We provide evidence of the efficiency of the software with an empirical example and using simulations. The only data required is a typical molecular marker dataset, such as a microsatellite or SNP dataset, from which estimates of inbreeding and pairwise relatedness may be obtained. Such molecular datasets are becoming easier to gather from non-model organisms with next-generation sequencing (NGS) technology. SWINGER is an open source software with a user-friendly interface and is available at http:// www.molecularecology . and This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Concepts: Genetics, Conservation biology, Population genetics, In-situ conservation, Open source, Inbreeding, Ex-situ conservation, Captive breeding