In situ Conservation of Wild Plants

In situ Conservation of Wild Plants

In situ Conservation of Wild Plants for Food and Agriculture by Means of Umbrella Species in Germany (IsWEL)

Celery (Apium graveolens) (Picture Credit: Maria Boenisch, JKI)

The project focusses on wild plants for food and agriculture (in German Wildpflanzen für Ernährung und Landwirtschaft, in short: WEL), i.e. crop wild relatives and species potentially useful for agriculture and the food industry, which are often not covered by conservation strategies. In order to extent the German Network of Genetic Reserves, we will identify WEL umbrella species, nominate WEL hotspots in order to establish genetic reserves (GR) and create GR in model regions. By focusing on WEL hotspots and following the umbrella species approach, in which several species are benefiting from management of some single species, the project aims to conserve as many WEL as possible with as few resources as necessary. A genetic reserve is defined as a designated area for active and permanent conservation measures where the genetic diversity of naturally occurring wild species is monitored and managed. WEL species with economic relevance will be given priority in terms of conservation measures, following the recommendation of the German Advisory and Coordination Committee on Genetic Resources of Agricultural and Horticultural Crops (BEKO), which adopted a preliminary list of priority species (134 taxa) in 2019. The GR conservation strategy was tested in several projects (wild celery, wild apple, wild grapevine, grassland), which always started from a narrow spectrum of species. In contrast to these projects, the focus has now shifted to WEL hotspots in different biotopes, giving the project a broader and fundamentally new approach. Since the long-term financing of GR has not yet been secured, recommendations for structural financing will be developed.

Target species: Wild plants which are potentially useful for the food industry and agriculture (WEL), especially those that have been identified by BEKO as an essential resource for plant breeding and should therefore be given priority in terms of conservation measures. 

Project goals: Efficient conservation and easier access to plant genetic resources by means of:

  • Systematic identification of WEL hotspots in different biotopes
  • Testing and implementation of the umbrella species approach in these WEL hotspots
  • Characterization of selected WEL hotspots and evaluation of management strategies
  • Creation of genetic reserves in the selected WEL hotspots
  • Storage of WEL seed samples in the WEL Gene Bank (for more information please go to
  • Recommendations on structural financing for the in situ conservation of WEL  


In a first step, we will collect information on the location of WEL species in Germany, draft a nationwide inventory list and identify WEL hotspots. Second, we will use information on the species frequency, sensitivity to disturbances and number of sympatric occurrences with other species to calculate the umbrella species index for WEL in hotspots according to Fleishman et al. (2000, 20001). Subsequently, around 100 hotspot areas with umbrella species will be chosen as suitable candidates for the establishment of genetic reserves. In at least 30 of these areas, on-site assessments will be carried out throughout the summer of 2021 to assess WEL and evaluate the conservation status and management of the umbrella species. As part of the on-site assessments, we will collect leaf samples of several occurrences from two WEL species in order to explore genetic differentiation patterns. Based on the evaluation of the results of the genetic analyses, we will nominate suitable areas for the creation of genetic reserves by 2023. We will evaluate relevant funding programs, draft financing proposals and suggest suitable actions for the in situ conservation of WEL. For areas nominated for the establishment of genetic reserves, site-specific plans for the conservation of WEL occurrences will be developed, and seed samples will be collected to store them in the WEL Gene Bank. Furthermore, local stakeholders will be consulted to implement at least 15 genetic reserves.

Project partners:

  • Julius Kühn Institute (JKI) – Federal Research Center for Cultivated Plants, Institute for Breeding Research on Agricultural Crops (Quedlinburg)
    • Dr. Nadine Bernhardt and M.Sc. Maria Bönisch
      • Project coordination, identification of WEL hotspots and umbrella species, genetic studies, planning and implementation of genetic reserves
  • Hochschule Anhalt, University of Applied Science (HSA), Department of Agriculture, Ecotrophology and Landscape Development (Bernburg)
    • Prof. Dr. Sabine Tischew, M.Sc. Thomas Engst and M.Sc. Vera Senße
      • Identification of WEL hotspots and WEL umbrella species, definition of suitable areas, characterization of WEL occurrences and evaluation of existing management strategies in selected sites
  • Hochschule Geisenheim University (HGU), Department of Landscape Planning and Nature Conservation  & Competence Center Cultural Landscape (CULT)  
    • Prof. Dr. Eckhard Jedicke and Dr. Martin Reiss
      • Evaluation of funding programs and proposals for suitable actions and financing  


Julius Kühn Institute (JKI) – Federal Research Center for Cultivated Plants

Institute for Breeding Research on Agricultural Crops

Nadine Bernhardt

Erwin-Baur-Str. 27, 06484 Quedlinburg

Email: nadine.bernhardt(at)

Phone: +49 (0)3946/47-701

Project initiator:
Federal Office for Agriculture and Food (BLE), grant number 2819BM040

Project duration:  July 01, 2020 – December 31, 2023


Arnica montana (Picture Credit: JKI)
Daucus carota ssp. carota (Picture Credit: JKI)
Mapping of Wild Plants (Picture Credit: JKI)
Trifolium campestre (Picture Credit: JKI)

Contact at Hochschule Geisenheim University

Eckhard Jedicke
Prof. Dr. Eckhard Jedicke
Building 7100
Room 01.05
Phone +49 6722 502 760
Eckhard.Jedicke(at) Details
Martin Reiss
Dr. Martin Reiss
Building 7100
Room 01.03
Phone +49 6722 502 654
Martin.Reiss(at) Details