In vivo conservation of animal genetic resources


In vivo conservation
of animal genetic resources


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Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
Rome 2013


The Global Plan of Action for Animal Genetic Resources, adopted in 2007, is the first internationally agreed framework for the management of biodiversity in the livestock sector. It calls for the development of technical guidelines to support countries in their implementation efforts. Guidelines on the Preparation of national strategies and action plans for animal genetic resources were published in 2009 and are being complemented by a series of guideline publications addressing specific technical subjects.
Conservation of animal genetic resources – ensuring that these valuable resources remain available for future use by livestock breeders – is one of the four strategic priority areas of the Global Plan of Action. These guidelines focus on conservation “in vivo”, i.e. maintaining live populations rather than storing frozen genetic material. They complement separate guidelines on Cryoconservation of animal genetic resources published in the same series. They have been endorsed by the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture.
In vivo conservation encompasses a range of actions that can be taken to ensure the survival of livestock breeds or populations that are threatened with extinction. These guidelines address both “in situ” conservation (supporting the continued use of threatened breeds in the livestock production systems where they have traditionally been raised) and “ex situ” conservation (maintenance of populations at sites such as conservation farms and zoos). As well as providing a wealth of information on breeding strategies for small at-risk populations, the guidelines provide advice on how to develop an effective and well-targeted national conservation strategy. They also discuss a number of specific strategies that can be employed to promote greater self-sustainability in at-risk breeds, including establishing community-based conservation programmes, promoting niche marketing and livestock-related cultural activities, and capitalizing on the use of grazing animals in landscape management and nature conservation.

Table of Contents

Abbreviations and acronyms
Glossary of selected terms
User guidance


Reviewing the roles of animal genetic resources and options for their conservation

    Inventorizing species, breeds and their functions
    Describing the dynamics of the livestock sector
    Reviewing the status and trends of animal genetic resources
    Identifying reasons for the loss of animal genetic diversity
    Identifying objectives for conservation
    Reviewing the status of each breed and developing management strategies
    Comparing conservation strategies


Identifying breeds at risk

    Determining risk status


Determining the conservation value of a breed

    Accounting for factors other than risk status
    Using information from genetic markers


Choosing the appropriate conservation methods

    Matching breeds and conservation methods


Organizing the institutions for in vivo conservation

    Involving livestock keepers in community-based conservation
    Establishing a breeders’ association
    Auditing a breeders’ association and its activities
    Establishing a centralized ex situ conservation programme
    Establishing a dispersed ex situ conservation programme


Designing the conservation programme

    Maintaining genetic variability within small populations


Establishing a breeding programme for conservation and sustainable use

    Choosing a breeding strategy
    Optimizing selection response and genetic variability in small populations
    Cross-breeding for enhanced production


Increasing the value and sustainability of conserved breeds

    Identifying sustainable use options for breeds under conservation
    Preparing a Biocultural Community Protocol
    Implementing a “role model breeders” programme
    Capitalizing on niche market production
    Enhancing value through ties to geographical origin or cultural significance
    Capitalizing on the roles of livestock in providing ecosystem services
    Capitalizing on the societal and cultural functions of livestock



    Overview of sections, tasks and actions

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ISBN 978-92-5-107725-2 (print)
E-ISBN 978-92-5-107726-9 (PDF)

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