Comprehensiveness of conservation of useful wild plants: An operational indicator for biodiversity and sustainable development targets

Colin K. Khoury, Daniel Amariles, Jonatan Stivens Soto, Maria Victoria Diaz, Steven Sotelo, Chrystian C. Sosa, Julian Ramírez-Villegas, Harold A. Achicanoy, Jorge Velásquez-Tibatá, Luigi Guarino, Blanca León, Carlos Navarro-Racines, Nora P. Castañeda-Álvarez, Hannes Dempewolf, John H. Wiersema, Andy Jarvis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

85 Scopus citations


In recognition of the tremendous value of useful plants and of the increasing threats to their persistence, international agreements including the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Sustainable Development Goals, and the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture have created ambitious conservation targets which must be measured through quantitative indicators so as to facilitate the development and implementation of strategies aimed at safeguarding their genetic diversity. Gaps in the current list of functioning indicators for these targets suggest that the development of effective measurements of the state of conservation of the genetic diversity within useful plants is a major challenge. Here we present a gap analysis indicator methodology that provides a pragmatic estimate of the comprehensiveness of conservation of the genetic diversity within useful wild plants, both ex situ and in situ. The methodology compares the geographic and ecological variation evident from analyses of the ‘site of collection’ of samples of plant taxa that are safeguarded in genebanks and other living plant repositories, as well as the variation evident in the proportion of species’ ranges inhabiting protected areas, against the full range of geographic and ecological variation in their native distributions. The methodology enables a prioritization of species for immediate conservation action, and, when measured periodically, can quantify progress toward comprehensive conservation of these plants at global, regional, and national scales, including determining when that goal has been reached. Assessing almost 7000 taxa with the “Comprehensiveness of conservation of useful wild plants” indicator, we find that they are currently highly under-conserved, with less than three out of every 100 taxa assessed as sufficiently conserved or of low priority for further conservation action (overall global indicator = 2.78). Indicator results at the national and regional scales as well as by species use type varied, although virtually all countries, regions, and use categories were found to require further conservation action, particularly with regard to ex situ conservation. The results as well as input data and method code are available for indicator reporting and for conservation prioritization setting.
Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)420-429
Number of pages10
JournalEcological Indicators
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2019


  • Aichi biodiversity targets
  • Biodiversity indicators
  • Crop wild relatives
  • Ex situ conservation
  • In situ conservation
  • Sustainable development goals


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