Beauty will save the world, but will the world save beauty? The case of the highly endangered Vavilovia formosa (Stev.) Fed.
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Vavilovia formosa (Stev.) Fed. is a scientifically valuable common ancestor of the plant tribe Fabeae and also important in breeding and agronomy studies of the cultivated Fabeae, but it is close to extinction. A concerted academic and geovernmental effort is needed to save it.
Since 2007, an informal international group of researchers on legumes has been working to increase awareness of Vavilovia formosa (Stev.) Fed., a relict and endangered wild-land relative to crop plant species. A majority of the modern botanical classifications place it within the tribe Fabeae, together with the genera vetchling (Lathyrus L.), lentil (Lens Mill.), pea (Pisum L.) and vetch (Vicia L.). V. formosa is encountered at altitudes from 1,500 m up to 3,500 m in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Russia, Syria and Turkey. This species may be of extraordinary importance for broadening current scientific knowledge on legume evolution and taxonomy because of its proximity to the hypothetical common ancestor of the tribe Fabeae, as well as for breeding and agronomy of the cultivated Fabeae species due to its perenniality and stress resistance. All this may be feasible only if a concerted and long-term conservation strategy is established and carried out by both academic and geovernmental authorities. The existing populations of V. formosa are in serious danger of extinction. The main threats are domestic and wild animal grazing, foraging, and early frosts in late summer. A long-term strategy to save V. formosa from extinction and to sustain its use in both basic and applied research comprises much improved in situ preservation, greater efforts for an ex situ conservation, and novel approaches of in vitro propagation.
KeywordsEndangered plants Ex situ conservation Fabeae In situ conservation Relict plants Vavilovia formosa
This research is a part of the projects ERA 168/01 SEELEGUMES within FP7-supported SEE-ERA.NET Plus programme of the European Union, TR-31016 and TR-31024 of the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development of the Republic of Serbia and IGA PrF-2012-001 of the Grant Agency of Palacký University.
The authors are deeply grateful to Nigel Maxted, Andrey Sinjushin, Alexandra Belyakova, Ivan Yan’kov, Noel Ellis and many other dear colleagues whose contribution to the research on Vavilovia formosa is priceless.
In memory of C. Steven, A.A. Fedorov, R.H. Makasheva, A.A. Golubev and N.I. Vavilov.
To Fyodor M. Dostoevsky and his belief in and celebration of immortal beauty of the world.
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