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Crop Wild Relatives: Major Threats

Intensified livestock farming in the form of overgrazing is indicated to have by far the greatest impact on CWR in Europe. Intensive arable farming and associated application of herbicides and pesticides is also impacting negatively on CWR. However, we should not conclude from these results that all types of farming are threatening CWR diversity; in fact, farmed areas (including arable land and pasture) are one of the primary habitats of CWR species. It is intensive and unsustainable farming practices, such as severe overgrazing, conversion of land to monocultures and the over-use of fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides that are the major threats to CWR that grow in agricultural areas – this includes grazing in semi-natural habitats such as Mediterranean maquis.

Development for tourism and recreation is also a major threat to European CWR and is affecting species throughout Europe but is concentrated in Greece, Ukraine, Cyprus, Portugal, Spain and Italy. Coastal development in these countries is particularly pervasive and is having a severe impact on populations that grow in marine habitats. Housing and urban development is also a significant threat.

Other threats having a major impact on CWR diversity in Europe include invasive alien species, recreational activities, transport infrastructure development, an increase in fire frequency or intensity (or sometimes also fire suppression), severe weather events, such as drought and flooding, and intensive forestry (including pollutants from forestry activities). Climate change is also a significant threatening factor for CWR species.

The Red List assessments are only a measure of the threat status of species as entities (i.e., taxonomic diversity), not of intra-specific diversity. Overgrazing and indeed many of the other threats impacting CWR could be causing significant levels of genetic erosion; however, without regular and long-term monitoring of genetic diversity within and between a broad range of CWR species, we cannot make any supported assumptions.

Major threats to CWR species in Europe
Major threats to CWR species in Europe
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