Oz Barazani and Jotham Ziffer-Berger

Oz Barazani, Arnon Dag, Zohar Kerem, Shimon Lavee and Joachim W. Kadereit

It is assumed that the cultivation of olive trees started in the East Mediterranean in the third millennia BCE. Throughout history and until recently, successful olive clones were maintained vegetatively and were grafted either on seedlings or on spheroblasts removed from the base of the trunk. It therefore can be hypothesized that local old olive trees, older than 500 years might represent an ancient gene pool. Modern terminology categorizes local genotypes into four main variety groups. However, in traditional terminology these were further differentiated into 27 cultivars according to their phenotypic traits. This genetic diversity, along with the fact that olive trees have been cultivated in a wide range of environmental conditions, might also suggest that adaption to specific conditions played a major role in the selection of rootstocks and scions. We therefore consider it important to start a conservation program of this valuable genetic resource that can be used in future breeding programs.

Sivan Golan, Yoni Waitz, Jotham Ziffer-Berger, Michal Barzilai, Nir Hanin, Zalmen Henkin and Oz Barazani

Germination behavior of the widespread southeastern Mediterranean shrub Sarcopoterium spinosum was conducted to assess its respond to post-fire cues. Germination experiments were conducted on 10 populations along a rainfall gradient – from productive, fuel-rich and fire-prone mesic Mediterranean populations, as well as from those in arid and fuel-poor environments. Our results indicate that post-fire cues induced germination of S. spinosum only among populations that originated from sites that are prone to wild fires. As wild-fires in this region occur mainly during the long dry season, but rarely ignited by natural factors, the adaptation to human made fires in natural populations of the southeastern Mediterranean environments is discussed.

Jotham Ziffer-Berger, Alexandra Keren-Keiserman, Adi Doron-Faigenboim, Klaus Mummenhoff and Oz Barazani

Molecular tools provide new insights into phylogenetic relationships of plant species, and by relating phylogenetic groups to their geographical distribution, we can cast light upon the evolution history of plant clades. In the current study, we evaluated the phylogenetic position of the Sinai endemic Brassica deserti (Brassicaceae), later renamed as Erucastrum deserti, based on morphological data and 5.8S rDNA and ITS (Internal Transcribed Spacer) regions. Our results indicate that B. deserti belongs to an East-Mediterranean – Saharo Arabian clade and was not assigned to the core Brassica and Erucastrum clades, respectively, which evolved in the West Mediterranean area. We tentatively conclude that Brassica deserti evolved independently of core Brassica and Erucastrum.

Oz Barazani, Nir Hanin, Prabodh Kumar Bajpai, Yoni Waitz, Michal Barzilai, Alexandra Keren-Keiserman, Tomer Faraj, Einav Mayzlish-Gati, Erik Westberg and Jotham Ziffer-Berger

The winter annuals Brassica tournefortii and Raphanus raphanistrum (Brassicaceae) share similar habitats and life-history traits, but differ in their reproduction system (self-compatibility vs. self-incompatibility, respectively). The two phylogenetically close species offer means to assess the effect of reproductive biology on genetic diversity between and within populations. In general, genetic diversity between populations of B. tournefortii was higher than that found between populations of R. raphanistrum, while higher genetic diversity indices were evident within populations of R. raphanistrum. In addition, the results of pairwise genetic distances indicated that the genetic distances between populations can be associated to the species’ reproductive biology and not to the population’s distribution pattern. We discuss whether knowledge of reproductive and habitat characteristics can be used to predict genetic diversity when planning sampling scheme for ex situ conservation.

Einav Mayzlish-Gati, Margareta Walczak, Alon Singer, Tomer Faraj, Sivan Golan, Dikla Lifshitz, Dana Bar, Yair Ur, Dafna Carmeli, Ran Lotan, Ofra Fridman, Alma Daniel, Yael Sade, Avi Perevolotsky, Rivka Hadas and Oz Barazani

Israel is a geographically small and relatively new state (founded in 1948) with high population density, industrial development and economic growth, all of which negatively affect the environment, particularly biodiversity. There is, however, a growing awareness in the country of the need for environmental and biodiversity protection. The Israel Nature and Parks Authority (INPA), the official body legally responsible for protecting natural habitats, biodiversity and ecosystems in Israel, established a program to protect and conserve the endangered, near-threatened and very rare (ENtR) plants listed in the Israel Red Data Book of flora at risk. In this communication, we describe the ex-situ conservation strategies of the Israel Gene Bank (IGB) within this program. The IGB has expanded its role in the conservation of ENtR species from only ex-situ seed conservation to active involvement in whole-plant conservation and reintroducing ENtR species back into nature. In the past 10 years, 1289 accessions belonging to 68% of the species in the Red List were collected to form the IGB core collection of endangered and rare species. The germination unit of the IGB developed 198 new protocols and propagated 87 different ENtR species.