Arable plants have inhabited cropped fields since the beginnings of agriculture. Over the last six decades or so, changes in agricultural practices have resulted in a strong decline in the abundance and diversity of these plant species (Storkey et al. 2012). Many have become rare and are red-listed. In some countries, up to 77% of the arable flora is threatened, and across the continent, a total of 582 species is endangered (Andreasen et al, 1996; Storkey et al. 2012; Richner et al., 2014).
Even before this dramatic decline, some species were considered special and of conservational value because of their relative rarity. Now, many of these species are at the brink of extinction. Although they form only a small part of the total biodiversity and their contribution to ecosystem services is unclear, they deserve protection because of their cultural-historical and iconic values. National conservation plans exist but unfortunately differ hugely between countries and their effectiveness is largely unknown.
Assessing the relative success of different conservation measures with reference to the ecological requirements of the various threatened species is needed. However, research in this area is slow because the topic is, despite public interest, unpopular with funding agencies. Joining forces or finding common objectives with the media could help to coerce funding agencies into funding research and management of rare arable species. Collaboration between members of the WG Weed and Biodiversity could be instrumental in this process.
INRA, UMR1347 Agroécologie
17 rue Sully
Tel: + 33 (0)380 69 31 86
Fax: + 33 (0)380 69 32 62
Wageningen University and Research
Biointeraction and plant health - Field Crops
P.O. box 16, 6700 AA Wageningen
Tel: +31 320 2 91164