What are CWR?
Crop wild relatives (CWR) are wild plants closely related to crops of direct socio-economic importance (e.g. food, forage, ornamental, medicinal, fuel).
Why are CWR important?
CWR are a rich source of novel genetic diversity that can underpin future food security.
CWR are under threat from intensive farming, urbanization, habitat degradation and loss, invasive species and climate change.
CWR are the source of genetic variation for resistance to pests and diseases. They can enhance the nutritional quality of crops, they can improve crop adaptation to climate change (e.g. extreme temperatures, droughts, soil salinity) and they are a rich source of novel genetic diversity that can underpin future food security.
Mesoamerica is one of the world’s most important centers of origin and diversity of cultivated plants and their CWR. It is necessary to increase in situ conservation efforts of Mesoamerica’s CWR and link them with ex situ conservation in seed banks.
(Map source: Khoury CK, Achicanoy HA, Bjorkman AD, Navarro-Racines C, Guarino L, Flores-Palacios X, Engels JMM, Wiersema JH, Dempewolf H, Sotelo S, Ramírez-Villegas J, Castañeda-Álvarez NP, Fowler C, Jarvis A, Rieseberg LH, and Struik PC (2016). Origins of food crops connect countries worldwide. Proc. R. Soc. B 283: 20160792. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2016.0792.)
The Mesoamerican region is a crucial area for crop wild relatives conservation efforts. This biodiversity Hotspot is a region of high conservation value for both wild and domesticated species that is undergoing rapid human population growth, ecological degradation, and loss of traditional farming systems (Harvey, Celia A., et al. 2008).