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A Framework for Prioritizing Domestic Animal Breeds for Conservation Purposes at the National Level: a Norwegian Case Study

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Although encompassing only a handful of species, domestic animals have had profound effects on food production for humankind and on human societies. On a global basis, a large proportion of breeds are currently in danger of becoming extinct in the near future. At this critical time, resources are limited and only a selected number of breeds may be supported by concrete conservation programs. I present a framework to facilitate decision making on a national level as to which breeds to support for conservation. These decisions should be made by a national committee of experts experienced with the different breeds and species. First, they must define the species of interest. Second, they should collate as much data as possible and score each breed for key criteria: degree of endangerment, presence of traits of current economic value, presence of traits of current scientific value, agroecological value in a special landscape, cultural-historical value, and genetic uniqueness. The degree of endangerment is the most important criterion because great uncertainty about the future means that all breeds may have traits of future economic or scientific value, so the main aim should therefore be to minimize loss of breeds. To illustrate use of the framework, I considered breed prioritization in Norway. I compared and scored 45 breeds from 17 domestic animal species for these key criteria and thus identified Norwegian breeds of high priority for conservation.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Animal Science, Agricultural University of Norway, P.O. Box 5025, ├ůs N-1432, Norway

Publication date: October 1, 2000

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