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Launch of a major EU initiative on conservation of genetic resources

1 December 2012

Mike Bruford ConGRESS launch

On December 1st, a Cardiff-led consortium of European conservation biologists launched a new web portal designed to assist biodiversity policy makers and resource managers in incorporating genetic considerations when designing conservation plans.

The project entitled ConGRESS (Conservation Genetic Resources for Effective Species Survival) is funded under the EU Framework 7 program and is coordinated by Prof Mike Bruford of the Organisms and Environment Division, School of Biosciences. The major output of this project, which has been running for the last 30 months, is a web portal that provides a 'one stop shop' for biodiversity professionals throughout Europe to find genetic information about the species that they wish to conserve.

The web site (www.congressgenetics.eu) not only contains information on over 4,000 studies of European threatened taxa, but also contains a presentation and basic leaflets on genetics and its importance in conservation (produced in major European languages); a forum for end-users to contact scientists in their region; a project planning tool to enable studies to be designed and commissioned by non-geneticists; and a decision tool designed to facilitate the interpretation of results.

The web portal was designed with the active participation of European conservation professionals through a series of ten workshops carried out across the EU during 2012 involving more than 200 participants. "Genetics has traditionally been left out of biodiversity management considerations in Europe", said Prof Bruford "but with new 2020 targets for the Convention on Biological Diversity, countries now have an obligation to include genes in their conservation plans and we hope this web tool will provide the necessary information and support to enable this to happen".