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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2018 Jan 16;115(3):E546-E554. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1709582115. Epub 2018 Jan 2.

Preservation of the genetic diversity of a local common carp in the agricultural heritage rice-fish system.

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College of Life Sciences, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou 310058, China.
Department of Ecology, South China Agricultural University, Guangzhou 510642, China.
College of Life Sciences, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou 310058, China;


We examined how traditional farmers preserve the genetic diversity of a local common carp (Cyprinus carpio), which is locally referred to as "paddy field carp" (PF-carp), in a "globally important agricultural heritage system" (GIAHS), i.e., the 1,200-y-old rice-fish coculture system in Zhejiang Province, China. Our molecular and morphological analysis showed that the PF-carp has changed into a distinct local population with higher genetic diversity and diverse color types. Within this GIAHS region, PF-carps exist as a continuous metapopulation, although three genetic groups could be identified by microsatellite markers. Thousands of small farmer households interdependently obtained fry and parental carps for their own rice-fish production, resulting in a high gene flow and large numbers of parent carps distributing in a mosaic pattern in the region. Landscape genetic analysis indicated that farmers' connectivity was one of the major factors that shaped this genetic pattern. Population viability analysis further revealed that the numbers of these interconnected small farmer households and their connection intensity affect the carps' inherent genetic diversity. The practice of mixed culturing of carps with diverse color types helped to preserve a wide range of genetic resources in the paddy field. This widespread traditional practice increases fish yield and resource use, which, in return, encourages famers to continue their practice of selecting and conserving diverse color types of PF-carp. Our results suggested that traditional farmers secure the genetic diversity of PF-carp and its viability over generations in this region through interdependently incubating and mixed-culturing practices within the rice-fish system.


farmer connection; gene flow; paddy field carp; population performance; traditional agriculture

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