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An inventory of crop wild relatives and wild-utilized plants in Canada

Cite this dataset

Ulrich, Jens Christian et al. (2023). An inventory of crop wild relatives and wild-utilized plants in Canada [Dataset]. Dryad.


In the face of global pressures of change and biodiversity loss, crop wild relatives (CWR) and wild-utilized plants (WUS) urgently require conservation attention. To advance conservation, we assembled a national inventory of CWR and WUS in Canada. To assess current ex situ conservation, we gathered a virtual metacollection of CWR and WUS accession data from national genebanks and from botanical gardens. The inventory includes 779 CWR and WUS taxa (658 distinct species), with 263 (222 distinct species) that are related to food crops of global and national importance such as blueberry and cranberry, apple, stone fruits, strawberry, sunflower and saskatoon. Sixty-one food crop CWR taxa are prioritized for breeding potential, and sixteen due to conservation threats. Although most food crop CWR are represented in ex situ collections (91% of species), representation of within-species diversity is low (median = 5% of Canadian ecogeographic types represented per species). Poor representation of within-species diversity demands an integrative conservation strategy that emphasizes in situ protection especially focusing on wild-populations in Canada’s southern ecoregions where diversity is concentrated. While genebank collections represent more species and higher accession counts per species, botanical gardens include living collections of charismatic fruit crop relatives and other woody-perennials that are well situated to advance conservation by raising broader awareness of CWR and WUS. To promote further conservation, we present a web application that enables conservation planners and practitioners to identify local CWR and WUS diversity and to identify within-species ecogeographic types that are underrepresented in ex situ conservation systems.  


This dataset first includes an inventory of crop wild relatives and wild utilized plants in Canada. The inventory was assembled by identifying plants that occur in Canada that are congeneric with food crops of agricultural importance and/or are utilized directly. During the inventory assembly process we collected and add to the inventory dataset information on breeding utility that is available through the GRIN-Global Crop Wild Relative Database ( and on conservation threats that was requested and provided by NatureServe Canada (

Next, we downloaded occurrence data from the Global Biodiversity Information Facility ( to map the occurrence range for each plant taxa in the inventory. These data are used to identify ecogeographic regions with high crop wild relative diversity.

For each crop wild relative in the inventory, we then downloaded accession data from Canadian genebank system databases and the database for the genebanks of the US NPGS system. We also contacted major Canadian botanical gardens, requesting full collections data from seven botanical garden institutions, which was then filtered to find accessions matching the taxa in our inventory.

Using the collections data, we identify the number of accessions representing each taxon in the inventory.

We then combine the collections data with the ecogeographic occurrence data to identify the proportion of within species ecogeographic diversity (as a proxy for within-species genetic diversity) that is represented for each taxon in genebank and botanical garden conservation systems.

Finally, we provide a supplemental web application to enable readers and interested parties to view breeding utility, conservation threats, ecogeographic range, and ex situ conservation status on a taxon-by-taxon basis.


University of British Columbia