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Toward integrated conservation of North America’s crop wild relatives

Khoury Colin K., Greene Stephanie L., Krishnan Sarada, Miller Allison, Moreau Tara, Williams Karen A., Bonilla Lorraine, Spurrier Carol S., Zalapa Juan Ernesto, Nabhan Gary P.
Natural areas journal 2020 v.40 no.1 pp. 96-100
Capsicum annuum, wild plants, natural resources conservation, Capsicum annuum var. glabriusculum, Vaccinium macrocarpon, Vaccinium oxycoccos, botanical gardens, cranberries, education, flora, habitats, hot peppers, indigenous species, land management, plant breeding, threatened species, wild relatives, North America
North America harbors a rich native flora of crop wild relatives - the progenitors and closely related species of domesticated plants - as well as a range of culturally significant wild utilized plants. Despite their current and potential future value, they are rarely prioritized for conservation efforts, thus many species are threatened in their natural habitats, and most are under-represented in plant genebanks and botanical gardens. Further coordination of efforts among land management, botanical, and agricultural science organizations will lead to better protection and greater conservation practitioner as well as general public awareness with regard to these species. We present examples of productive collaborations focused on wild cranberries (Vaccinium macrocarpon Aiton and Vaccinium oxycoccos L.) and chile peppers (Capsicum annuum L. var. glabriusculum (Dunal) Heiser & Pickersgill). We then discuss five shared priorities for further action: 1) understand and document North America’s crop wild relatives and wild utilized plants, 2) protect threatened species in their natural habitats, 3) collect and conserve ex situ the diversity of prioritized species, 4) make this diversity accessible and attractive for plant breeding, research, and education, and 5) raise public awareness of their value and the threats to their persistence.