Environmental Protection

Interactive Atlas Conserves Agricultural Biodiversity

USDA scientists and cooperators developed an interactive atlas of wireless plants in Guatemala that are closely related to crop plants, which will make it easier to preserve plants with genes that are vital to global food security.

The Atlas of Guatemalan Crop Wild Relatives is accessible using a Google Earth interface and gives researchers and the public access to decades of data assembled by dozens of plant collectors in one of the richest regions of biodiversity in the world. Of the 105 species of plants included, eight occur only in Guatemala. Plant species were selected based on their importance to both world and Guatemalan agriculture.

The atlas is designed to provide Guatemalan scientists and land managers with information on where these crops grow, which ones are most at risk, and which may be safe from habitat destruction. Scientists can use it to identify areas in need of protection.

Many of Guatemala's native plants are closely related to some of the most important crops in the United States, including corn, beans, peppers, and potatoes. These crop wild relatives have genes that may be useful in addressing threats posed by emerging diseases, insect pests, temperature and rainfall extremes arising from a changing climate.

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