The wild relatives of livestock and crops are disappearing

phys.org | 5/23/2019 | Staff
Firefang (Posted by) Level 4
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"Transformative change" is needed to prevent a million species going extinct, according to a new report on the world's biodiversity. Based on information gathered over three years from land, freshwater and marine ecosystems, and drawing heavily from the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the report from the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services warns that Earth's life-support systems may collapse if humanity doesn't change the way it values and uses nature.

But what does this mean for everyday life? Biodiversity—which describes the variety and abundance of species living on Earth—is a term which doesn't travel far outside debate between scientists and policymakers. The consequences of the biodiversity crisis can seem abstract and difficult for many people to understand, particularly the implications for their own lives.

Food - Implications

Think food, though, and the implications become clear.

Modern livestock breeds and crop species have been bred to be highly productive, which means accentuating particular traits. Chickens have been bred to maintain a uniform size for cost effective production, while fruit and vegetables have been bred to have thick, juicy flesh. To concentrate these features within livestock and crop populations, plants and animals are bred with ever more genetically similar partners, leaving a shallow and homogeneous gene pool that is a poor defence against disease and environmental change.

Relatives - Plants - Animals - Species - Crops

Wild relatives of domesticated plants and animals are the ancestral species from which crops and livestock have descended, or their near relatives. The pigs we raise for food are descended from wild boar (Sus scrofa) and chickens are descended from red jungle fowl (Gallus gallus) – a species that is widespread in Asia. These wild species are thought to be sufficiently closely related to domestic varieties that they could crossbreed to increase their genetic diversity.

The wild relatives of domesticated species inhabit the rocky and icebound fastness of high mountain...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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