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Crop Wild Relatives: Geographic Patterns

Species richness

Species richness is highest in those areas of the region that are floristically rich – the countries of southwestern and southeastern Europe. The Eastern Mediterranean was recognized as a global Centre of Crop Diversity by Vavilov; therefore, it is not surprising that this area has a particularly high concentration of CWR species. The top five countries in terms of species richness are: Greece, Spain, Italy, France and Bulgaria.

Species richness of European CWR (based on the sample included in the European Red List, excluding species assessed as Not Applicable and Data Deficient)
Species richness of European CWR (based on the sample included in the European Red List, excluding species assessed as Not Applicable and Data Deficient)
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Endemic species

Of the sample of CWR assessed, 188 are endemic to Europe and of these, 119 are single country endemics. Endemism is highest in the Spanish territories (37 species), Greece (22), Italy (15) and the Portuguese territories (14). Many of these nationally endemic species occur in the Canary Islands and Balearics (Spain), Sicily (Italy) and Madeira (Portugal). Cyprus is also a hotspot of endemism of CWR species – although only six national endemics were included in this sample, the level of endemism is high taking into account the size of the country. Crimea also exhibits a high degree of endemism which is due to the geographical isolation of the land mass – the main area of diversity being on the south side of the escarpment. As is the case for other wild plant species, mountainous regions are also rich in endemic CWR species – for example, in Greece, Italy and Spain.

Species richness of CWR species endemic to Europe (based on the sample included in the European Red List, excluding species assessed as Not Applicable and Data Deficient)
Species richness of CWR species endemic to Europe (based on the sample included in the European Red List, excluding species assessed as Not Applicable and Data Deficient)
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Threatened species

The highest numbers of threatened species are found in the countries of southern and eastern Europe which are known to have comparatively large floras and thus a large number of CWR species. It is notable that many of the threatened species are endemic to the Canary Islands and to the Madeira and Azores archipelagos, as well as to Sicily – this is of course no surprise, since not only do these islands have a high degree of endemism, but many island habitats are highly degraded, fragmented and fragile.

Distribution of threatened CWR species in Europe (based on the sample included in the European Red List)
Distribution of threatened CWR species in Europe (based on the sample included in the European Red List)
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