Biodiversity, agriculture, and livelihoods: Co-evolution and competition in an Andean-Amazonian watershed
This project was part of the ESPA scoping phase, which ran between 2008 and 2011. The resulting proposal for further funding was unsuccessful.
Agriculture, ecosystems, and humans have co-evolved over millennia in the Andean-Amazonian region, creating the richest of all Vavilov centers of crop origin and diversity.
The conservation of a wide range of domesticated crops and landraces (i.e., indigenous, ancestral varieties or cultivars that are distinct, uniform, and stable) and their co-evolution with crop wild relatives (CWR) is essential for food security, adaptation to environmental change, and the ongoing dynamic evolution of crop genetic resources.
Novel agrobiodiversity also has the potential to be incorporated into niche markets, raising income and reducing poverty. Yet complex processes at the heart of the interface of biodiversity management are still little understood. How do crow wild relative-crop interactions affect the emergence and selection of new landraces? What is the relationship between land use and agrobiodiversity loss, or that between agrobiodiversity and environmental and sociocultural resilience? Of all environmental services, the provision of useful genes for human food systems eventually comes from the interaction between ecosystems containing crop wild relatives, crops, and the adaptive management of these natural assets by smallholder farmers. There is also competition and conflict between agriculture and biodiversity.
As pointed out in the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005), the expansion of agriculture continues to be a major driver of biodiversity loss, and genetic diversity among domesticated species has declined. This project, operating in Peru, Bolivia and Brazil, explored how agricultural expansion affects the interactions among crops, people and ecosystems, in an Andean-Amazonian environment where indigenous smallholder farmers cultivate a wide range of species. The project also examined whether dynamic conservation approaches can offer a balance between resilient ecosystems and resilient livelihoods.