I came across this article today: https://www.npr.org/2020/12/16/946848442/distant-cousins-of-food-crops-deserve-respect-and-protection
About this study:
tl;dr, A team of researchers (mostly from the USDA) published an article about the importance and conservation status of North American plants termed “crop wild relatives” (CWR), which are wild species in the same genera as various cultivated food plants.
This is the first time I’ve encountered CWR as a term, and I was curious about the approach. The emphasis on this group appears to be a part of the pragmatic approach to conservation, where conservation status and effort is assigned with economic benefit in mind. Their argument is that CWRs contain a gene bank of “useful” traits that have been, and could be, interbred with cultivars to gain agricultural benefit.
I’ve heard the pragmatic approach criticized by purists, and I understand a bit from both sides, that pragmatists are looking to economic arguments to generate economic interest in conservation, and purists would rather change the conversation toward the intrinsic benefits of wild ecosystems, rather than economic benefits. I’m grateful for anything the pragmatic approach has done for conservation, but also feel like the focus on CWRs as a category ignores all of the other threatened or endangered species without any (known) crop value.
If you know anything about this topic, let me know if I’m on the right track on this analysis, or if there are parts of the conversation that I’m missing.
Also, they used GBIF as one of their sources for GIS data, which means that you and I (iNatters) probably contributed data to this study.