Agronomy for Sustainable Development

, Volume 33, Issue 1, pp 151–175 | Cite as

Seed exchange networks for agrobiodiversity conservation. A review

  • Marco PautassoEmail author
  • Guntra Aistara
  • Adeline Barnaud
  • Sophie Caillon
  • Pascal Clouvel
  • Oliver T. Coomes
  • Marc Delêtre
  • Elise Demeulenaere
  • Paola De Santis
  • Thomas Döring
  • Ludivine Eloy
  • Laure Emperaire
  • Eric Garine
  • Isabelle Goldringer
  • Devra Jarvis
  • Hélène I. Joly
  • Christian Leclerc
  • Selim Louafi
  • Pierre Martin
  • François Massol
  • Shawn McGuire
  • Doyle McKey
  • Christine Padoch
  • Clélia Soler
  • Mathieu Thomas
  • Sara Tramontini
Review Article


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.


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



Many thanks to A. Balmford, M. Bellon, R. Blatrix, O. Holdenrieder, M. Jeger, B. Laporte, M. Moslonka-Lefebvre, A. Rodrigues, and E. Zanini for insights and discussions, to R. Freckleton, O. Holdenrieder, and T. Matoni for comments on a previous draft, and to the French Foundation for Research on Biodiversity (FRB) and the Centre de Synthèse et d’Analyse sur la Biodiversité (CESAB) for supporting this work (NETSEED project).


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Copyright information

© INRA and Springer-Verlag, France 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marco Pautasso
    • 1
    Email author
  • Guntra Aistara
    • 2
  • Adeline Barnaud
    • 3
  • Sophie Caillon
    • 1
  • Pascal Clouvel
    • 4
  • Oliver T. Coomes
    • 5
  • Marc Delêtre
    • 6
  • Elise Demeulenaere
    • 6
  • Paola De Santis
    • 7
  • Thomas Döring
    • 8
  • Ludivine Eloy
    • 9
  • Laure Emperaire
    • 10
  • Eric Garine
    • 11
  • Isabelle Goldringer
    • 12
  • Devra Jarvis
    • 7
  • Hélène I. Joly
    • 13
  • Christian Leclerc
    • 14
  • Selim Louafi
    • 14
  • Pierre Martin
    • 4
  • François Massol
    • 1
    • 15
  • Shawn McGuire
    • 16
  • Doyle McKey
    • 1
  • Christine Padoch
    • 17
  • Clélia Soler
    • 13
  • Mathieu Thomas
    • 12
  • Sara Tramontini
    • 18
  1. 1.Centre d’Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive (CEFE)UMR 5175 CNRSMontpellierFrance
  2. 2.Department of Environmental Sciences and PolicyCentral European UniversityBudapestHungary
  3. 3.UMR DIADE, Equipe DYNADIV, IRD MontpellierMontpellierFrance
  4. 4.UPR Systèmes des cultures annuellesCIRADMontpellierFrance
  5. 5.Department of GeographyMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada
  6. 6.Laboratoire d’Eco-Anthropologie et EthnobiologieUMR 7206 CNRS, Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle (MNHN)ParisFrance
  7. 7.Agricultural Biodiversity and EcosystemsBioversity InternationalRomeItaly
  8. 8.The Organic Research CentreHamstead MarshallUK
  9. 9.UMR 5281 Art-DevCNRSMontpellierFrance
  10. 10.Département HNSUMR 208 IRD-MNHN « Patrimoines locaux » (Paloc)ParisFrance
  11. 11.Laboratoire d’Ethnologie et de Sociologie Comparative, CNRSUniversité Paris Ouest-Nanterre, MAENanterreFrance
  12. 12.UMR de Génétique VégétaleINRA-CNRS-Univ. Paris-Sud-AgroParisTechGif-sur-YvetteFrance
  13. 13.CIRAD-Bios/UMR 5175CEFEMontpellierFrance
  14. 14.UMR AGAP, CIRADMontpellierFrance
  15. 15.CEMAGREF—UR HYAXAix-en-ProvenceFrance
  16. 16.School of International DevelopmentUniversity of East AngliaNorwichUK
  17. 17.CIFOR, Jalan CIFOR, Situ Gede, Bogor Barat 16115Indonesia and Institute of Economic Botany, The New York Botanical GardenBronxUSA
  18. 18.Dipartimento Colture Arboree, Plant PhysiologyUniversity of Turin, 10095 Grugliasco, Italy and European Food Safety AuthorityParmaItaly

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