This submission ties in with and strongly supports the work of the IUCN Species Survival Commission specialist groups and task forces, as well as, the Biodiversity Indicators Partnership. The here proposed two new indicators of within-species genetic diversity complement and add to existing indicators and indicators proposed by the IUCN SSC Conservation Genetic Specialist Group (CGSC; within-species level), the IUCN SSC Phylogenetic Diversity Task Force (crossing the species boundary, with a focus on between-species diversity) and the Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections (SPNHC) jointly with the Consortium of European Taxonomic Facilities (CETAF; here specifically the indicator “Completeness of the world’s species list”, above-species level).
The proposed new indicators complement the indicators of within-species genetic diversity proposed by the CGSC, in their focus on trends in genetic diversity within species that are widespread and continuously distributed. For example, both, European ash and the ascomycete causing ash dieback disease have large distribution ranges and are common to ubiquitous throughout most parts of their ranges. Such coevolutionary systems are causing huge socio-economic damage in forestry and agriculture. On the contrary, mycorrhizal species, as well as, symbiotic algae or bacteria and their animal (e. g. corals) and plant hosts (many forest tree species, legume trees to crops) are often of high importance for ecosystem functions and resilience. These wild and currently common species extensively and fundamentally provide benefits to people and, thus, prominently contribute to humanity’s wellbeing (see e. g. SDGs 2 & 3 and 14 & 15). Despite their importance to ecosystems and humanity, and their distribution throughout the Tree of Life, fungi, microorganisms in general and many other groups of widespread organisms are underrepresented in the monitoring framework and the CBD process (see e. g. reviews by The International Society for Fungal Conservation).
Genetic diversity provides “future options for humanity” and is in this way connecting Goals A and B (cp. the submission by the IUCS SSC Phylogenetic Diversity Task Force). Within-species diversity allows species to respond relatively quickly in evolutionary time and adapt to global changes, thus, providing resilience and adaptability, reducing the threat to biodiversity (zero draft of the post-2020 GBF, CBD/WG2020/2/3 Annex I, section II, 2030 action targets 1-6). It is also an important pool for managed genetic diversity that is used by humans in the form of breeds, landraces and mutational varieties, meeting thereby people’s needs through sustainable use and benefits sharing (zero draft of the post-2020 GBF (CBD/WG2020/2/3 Annex I, section II, 2030 action targets 7-11). Within-species genetic diversity furthermore provides incorruptible characters for conservation tools for the certification of sustainable management practices (e. g. UNFF14 E/2019/42-E/CN.18/2019/9), for the monitoring of supply chains and for forensic work fighting illegal wildlife trade, logging and fishing (see e. g. the ICCWC of the UNODC). Such conservation tools and solutions are needed for the 2030 action targets for implementation and mainstreaming (zero draft of the post-2020 GBF (CBD/WG2020/2/3 Annex I, section II, 12-20).
The monitoring of within-species genetic diversity requires high-quality, standardized reference datasets of distribution-range-wide genetic diversity within species that are in accordance with the FAIR principles and, thus, accessible to researchers globally. Moreover, these form the indispensable foundation for effective, efficient and reliable conservation tools for the monitoring, management, protection, recovery and conservation of species. Progress can be measured by the proposed indicator “Number of species with population-genetic reference datasets”.
The proposed indicator, “In situ and ex situ records-based index of within-species genetic diversity”, immediately allows evaluations of the trends of within-species genetic diversity. It is based on in situ and ex situ data as proxy, using e. g. specimen- and observation-records, as well as, the spatial and ecological distribution of collection records. The proposed indicator is similar to the currently operational and included CBD-indicator Comprehensiveness of conservation of socioeconomically as well as culturally valuable species. This indicator is provided by CIAT and Crop Trust. It also takes inspiration from EUFORGEN’s pan-European strategy for the conservation of forest trees (2015) and its recently published set of indicators (2020).
As member of the Biodiversity Crisis Committee of the Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections (SPNHC), I am supporting the indicators proposed by SPNH, having participated in their discussion.