Journal Article

Red list assessment of nine Aegilops species in Armenia

The aims of this study are to determine the geographical and ecological distribution of nine Aegilops species in Republic of Armenia and to make an assessment of their IUCN Red List status, using the IUCN Red list categories and criteria, in order to develop an in situ conservation strategy for wild relatives of wheat in Armenia. Ecogeographic surveys of nine Aegilops species were undertaken over 2 years in Armenia. They included a herbarium survey followed by extensive ground-truthing field surveys where targeted Aegilops species occur. The study showed that of the nine Aegilops species studied, four are threatened and of these, Ae. mutica and Ae. crassa are critically endangered. The latter species may even be extinct in Armenia. Ae. neglecta and A. biuncialis are endangered. Additional studies are required to assess the threat status of Ae. umbellulata. Ae. columnaris was assessed as near threatened, while the remaining species (Ae. triuncialis, Ae. cylindrica and Ae. tauschii) are of least concern. There has been a dramatic decline in the genetic resources of Aegilops species during recent years in Armenia as a result of adverse human impacts such as expansion of agriculture, urbanization and uncontrolled grazing. Several species, especially Ae. mutica and Ae. crassa, should be prioritized in conservation activities in Armenia. Efforts should be made to conserve genetic diversity of crop wild relative species both in situ and ex situ, bearing in mind that their germplasm carries potentially valuable information (traits) that can improve adaptability and productivity of cultivated wheat varieties.