Conservation Strategies for Local Breed Biodiversity
Sponenberg, D. Phillip
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Breeds of domesticated animals are often overlooked as contributing to biodiversity. Their unique role at the junction of natural and human-influenced environments makes them important potential contributors to biodiversity and ecosystem function. Effective conservation of livestock breeds rests upon valid recognition of breeds as repeatable genomic packages with a reasonably high level of predictability for performance. Local or landrace breeds that lack breeder organization are especially difficult to conserve due to lack of formal recognition as breeds. Achieving success with them involves three major steps: Discover, Secure, and Sustain. Early in the process an evaluation of candidate populations for status as genetic resources is essential. This process is aided by a phenotypic matrix which can be used alongside historical investigations and genetic (DNA) studies. The goal is to include all qualifying animals and to exclude all those that do not qualify. Securing some populations depends on careful rescue protocols for maximizing the recovery of genetic variation, and this can then be followed by breeding protocols that provide for maintaining the population’s production potential along with a healthy and viable genetic structure for long-term survival and use. Sustaining breeds for the long term is also enabled by assuring market demand for the breed and its products.