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ECONOGENE
Sustainable conservation of animal genetic resources in marginal rural areas: Integrating molecular genetics, socio-economics and geostatistical approaches

This proposal uniquely combines a molecular analysis of biodiversity, socio-economics and geostatistics to address the conservation of sheep and goat genetic resources and rural development in marginal agrosystems in Europe. To assist in situ conservation and address the relevant socio-economic factors, a coordinated approach to define the strategies of genetic management and rural development will be developed. The project will greatly extend the knowledge of sheep and goat genetic diversity at the molecular level, examine many unstudied local breeds, and identify gene pools to map conservation priorities. A map of development perspectives will be developed to identify areas where sustainable conservation of valuable populations could succeed. The maps of conservation and development priority will be overlaid and the value of this biodiversity to justify economic intervention estimated, and suggestions will be made for appropriate guidelines and actions.

Objectives
The objectives of this project are:
1) to extend previous knowledge of sheep and goat biodiversity using new molecular technologies and to examine many unstudied, marginal breeds (50 breeds of sheep and 40 of goats)
2) to investigate geographic patterns of genetic variation, with and without using the classification of breeds or populations
3) to identify populations deserving high conservation priority and to map conservation priorities
4) to investigate the socio-economic conditions where these breeds are raised, constructing a map of development perspectives
5) to identify areas where the sustainable conservation of the most valuable populations has a high chance of success, overlaying the maps of conservation priority and development perspectives
6) to obtain an estimate of the economic value of biodiversity for these species in order to justify specific management or conservation actions from an economic point of view
7) to suggest guidelines and actions for an economically viable conservation of local breeds.

Progress to Date
1) All molecular tools are in place.
2) Eleven databases have been designed and implemented. They contain data on sampling, breed description and performance, socio-economy of sampling site region, socio-economy of farms sampled, breed centroids database, environmental database, micro-satellite markers, AFLP markers, SNP markers, Mitochondrial DNA sequences and markers, and a Y chromosome markers dataset. Data upload in the database is complete.
3) Collection of data on local socio-economy and animal breeding is more than 90% complete.
4) Over 3 000 animals from 57 sheep and 47 goat breeds have been sampled and analysed. Over half a million molecular data points have been produced.
5) Socio-economic analyses are in progress.
6) Large-scale molecular genetics analyses are in progress.
7) Relationships have been established with other large-scale biodiversity and conservation projects to exchange experience, opinions and strategies, and to explore methods for joining complex datasets.
8) Case studies showing positive and/or negative examples of how current structural change and agricultural policy measures influence agricultural activities using traditional breeds have been investigated in France, Italy and the UK.
9) Analysis of molecular and socio-economic data is in progress, also exploiting the Geographic Information System to represent geographic maps of genetic variation and socio-economic conditions.

Classified in ANIMALS, CAP AND RURAL DEVELOPMENT, BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY

Scientist responsible for the project

Professor PAOLO AJMONE-MARSAN
Via Emila Parmense, 84
29100 Piacenza
Italy - IT

Phone: +39 0523 599204
Fax: +39 0523 599276
E-mail: paolo.ajmone@unicatt.it

References

Project ID QLRT-2000-02461
Organisation UNIVERSIT└ CATTOLICA DEL SACRO CUORE
Area 5.1.1
Start date 01 September 2001
Duration (months) 42
Total cost 3 325 224 €
Total EC contribution   2 605 726 €
Status Ongoing
Web address of the project   http://lasig.epfl.ch/projets/econogene/

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