Review Article

Agronomy for Sustainable Development

, Volume 33, Issue 1, pp 151-175

First online:

Seed exchange networks for agrobiodiversity conservation. A review

  • Marco PautassoAffiliated withCentre d’Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive (CEFE), UMR 5175 CNRS Email author 
  • , Guntra AistaraAffiliated withDepartment of Environmental Sciences and Policy, Central European University
  • , Adeline BarnaudAffiliated withUMR DIADE, Equipe DYNADIV, IRD Montpellier
  • , Sophie CaillonAffiliated withCentre d’Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive (CEFE), UMR 5175 CNRS
  • , Pascal ClouvelAffiliated withUPR Systèmes des cultures annuelles, CIRAD
  • , Oliver T. CoomesAffiliated withDepartment of Geography, McGill University
  • , Marc DelêtreAffiliated withLaboratoire d’Eco-Anthropologie et Ethnobiologie, UMR 7206 CNRS, Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle (MNHN)
  • , Elise DemeulenaereAffiliated withLaboratoire d’Eco-Anthropologie et Ethnobiologie, UMR 7206 CNRS, Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle (MNHN)
  • , Paola De SantisAffiliated withAgricultural Biodiversity and Ecosystems, Bioversity International
    • , Thomas DöringAffiliated withThe Organic Research Centre
    • , Ludivine EloyAffiliated withUMR 5281 Art-Dev, CNRS
    • , Laure EmperaireAffiliated withDépartement HNS, UMR 208 IRD-MNHN « Patrimoines locaux » (Paloc)
    • , Eric GarineAffiliated withLaboratoire d’Ethnologie et de Sociologie Comparative, CNRS, Université Paris Ouest-Nanterre, MAE
    • , Isabelle GoldringerAffiliated withUMR de Génétique Végétale, INRA-CNRS-Univ. Paris-Sud-AgroParisTech
    • , Devra JarvisAffiliated withAgricultural Biodiversity and Ecosystems, Bioversity International
    • , Hélène I. JolyAffiliated withCIRAD-Bios/UMR 5175, CEFE
    • , Christian LeclercAffiliated withUMR AGAP, CIRAD
    • , Selim LouafiAffiliated withUMR AGAP, CIRAD
    • , Pierre MartinAffiliated withUPR Systèmes des cultures annuelles, CIRAD
    • , François MassolAffiliated withCentre d’Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive (CEFE), UMR 5175 CNRSCEMAGREF—UR HYAX
    • , Shawn McGuireAffiliated withSchool of International Development, University of East Anglia
    • , Doyle McKeyAffiliated withCentre d’Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive (CEFE), UMR 5175 CNRS
    • , Christine PadochAffiliated withCIFOR, Jalan CIFOR, Situ Gede, Bogor Barat 16115, Indonesia and Institute of Economic Botany, The New York Botanical Garden
    • , Clélia SolerAffiliated withCIRAD-Bios/UMR 5175, CEFE
    • , Mathieu ThomasAffiliated withUMR de Génétique Végétale, INRA-CNRS-Univ. Paris-Sud-AgroParisTech
    • , Sara TramontiniAffiliated withDipartimento Colture Arboree, Plant Physiology, University of Turin, 10095 Grugliasco, Italy and European Food Safety Authority

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Abstract

The circulation of seed among farmers is central to agrobiodiversity conservation and dynamics. Agrobiodiversity, the diversity of agricultural systems from genes to varieties and crop species, from farming methods to landscape composition, is part of humanity’s cultural heritage. Whereas agrobiodiversity conservation has received much attention from researchers and policy makers over the last decades, the methods available to study the role of seed exchange networks in preserving crop biodiversity have only recently begun to be considered. In this overview, we present key concepts, methods, and challenges to better understand seed exchange networks so as to improve the chances that traditional crop varieties (landraces) will be preserved and used sustainably around the world. The available literature suggests that there is insufficient knowledge about the social, cultural, and methodological dimensions of environmental change, including how seed exchange networks will cope with changes in climates, socio-economic factors, and family structures that have supported seed exchange systems to date. Methods available to study the role of seed exchange networks in the preservation and adaptation of crop specific and genetic diversity range from meta-analysis to modelling, from participatory approaches to the development of bio-indicators, from genetic to biogeographical studies, from anthropological and ethnographic research to the use of network theory. We advocate a diversity of approaches, so as to foster the creation of robust and policy-relevant knowledge. Open challenges in the study of the role of seed exchange networks in biodiversity conservation include the development of methods to (i) enhance farmers’ participation to decision-making in agro-ecosystems, (ii) integrate ex situ and in situ approaches, (iii) achieve interdisciplinary research collaboration between social and natural scientists, and (iv) use network analysis as a conceptual framework to bridge boundaries among researchers, farmers and policy makers, as well as other stakeholders.

Keywords

Biodiversity Complex networks Global change Landscape genetics Methods in ecology and evolution Participatory approaches Review Scenarios Seeds Simulation models