UNESCO World Heritage Sites and agricultural biodiversity

Two of the newly-inscribed sites in the UNESCO World Heritage List caught my eye because of their agricultural biodiversity connections: both, interestingly, are in Europe. The first is the Lavaux vineyard terraces, 30 km of 1000-year-old agricultural landscape around Lake Geneva. The second is the primeval beech forest of the Carpathians, in Slovakia and Ukraine. However, I must admit that this second one only caught me eye by mistake, as it were. I thought it was in these forests that the last aurochs lived, but that was ignorance, pure ignorance on my part. It is the wisent that lives there, still. The last recorded aurochs died in 1627 in the royal forest of Jaktorow in Masovia, central Poland. Somewhere else entirely. But I wonder if there are any other wild relatives — of either livestock or crops — in the primeval Carpathian beech forest.

Crop national parks?

A new publication by WWF and some friends at the University of Birmingham1 makes the case for using protected areas, in particular in the centres of origin, to conserve genetic diversity in crops and their wild relatives:

Many of these centres have only five per cent protection, some have only one per cent or less. They include: the Central Andean wet puna of Peru and Bolivia, well known as reservoirs of grains and root crops including the potato; the Eastern Anatolian deciduous forests and steppe of Iran, Turkey and Armenia, centres of diversity for many grains and fruit species; the Southern Korea evergreen forests important for their genetic resources of tea; and the Malaysian rainforests which are centres of diversity for many tropical fruit species, particularly mangoes.

  1. Food Stores: Using Protected Areas to Secure Crop Genetic Diversity. A research report by WWF, Equilibrium and the University of Birmingham, UK. Written by Sue Stolton, Nigel Maxted, Brian Ford-Lloyd, Shelagh Kell, and Nigel Dudley. Published August 2006, WWF – World Wide Fund for Nature []