Policy Brief: In situ and ex situ conservation, Two sides of the same coin

Ex situ conservation – literally: conservation ‘out of place’ – is an important complement to its sister, in situ conservation, meaning conservation ‘in place.’

Ex situ conservation approaches are typically centered around the collecting, storage and distribution of genetic resources from genebanks, whereas in situ approaches focus on conservation in farmer’s fields or in the wild. Our Crop Wild Relatives Project has a focus on ex situ conservation: however, this is not to say that we don’t value the importance of complementary in situ conservation approaches, which have the clear advantage of not only preserving genetic diversity per se but also the dynamic evolutionary processes that continue to change and create new genetic diversity.

Several of the Project’s outputs, such as the global gap analysis, the occurrence database and the Harlan and de Wet inventory, could play important roles in in situ conservation planning. Today, we are releasing a policy brief on the importance of both of these two conservation approaches for crop wild relatives, and we encourage all our readers to share it widely and make sure it reaches relevant policy-makers and those who work to raise awareness of these issues.

Key messages are:

  • Crop wild relatives (CWR) are wild plant species that are related to crops. CWR constitute a valuable genetic resource for crop improvement and the adaptation of agriculture to climate change, estimated by one study, to have provided traits to global agriculture worth $115 billion in one year, 1997, alone.
  • Many CWR species and populations are at risk, necessitating a systematic global effort to conserve and secure these valuable genetic resources, both in genebanks and in the wild.
  • Ex situ conservation of CWR facilitates their use in agricultural research and breeding and allows diversity to be backed up in multiple locations.
  • In situ conservation of CWR is useful for conserving genetic diversity of multiple species to allow the continued evolution of new, adaptive traits.
  • The complementary conservation of CWR both in situ and ex situ is the best strategy to safeguard and make available the diversity of crop wild relatives, as well as to ensure their continued evolution.

Download Policy Brief here

In Situ and ex situ conservation: Two sides of the same coin


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