PROTECTION AND SUSTAINABILITY OF SLOVAK ANIMAL GENETIC RESOURCES IN ORDER TO ENSURE THE SELF-SUFFICIENCY IN QUALITY FOOD IN SLOVAKIA

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April – May 2020, vol. 9, no. 5
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Article type: Biotechnology of Biotechnology
DOI: 10.15414/jmbfs.2020.9.5.1029-1033
Abstract: Animal genetic resources are the primary biological capital for livestock development. Their sustainable utilization, development and conservation are essential for agriculture and food production, rural development and environment. Slovakia hosts a large proportion of the species that are threatened at the European level, and has the important responsibility for protecting these species within its territory. Further exploitation of germplasm of high productive and efficient breeds is a key component of the global food security ambitions. Sustainable intensification has already been a key objective for the livestock sector during the past decades and is also relevant from a global perspective. In Slovakia, the different natural conditions of the individual regions find their expression in the different conditions for plant and animal production. The decrease in agricultural production in Slovakia is reflected in a decrease of employment and in the consumption of milk and beef products.
The cryobank (within the programme of biodiversity preservation) conserves available semen and embryos. The aim is to extend the supplies of reproductive cells and embryos of the farm animals. Cryopreservation and storage of semen and embryos represents the basis of animal genetic resources under ex situ conditions.
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PROTECTION AND SUSTAINABILITY OF SLOVAK ANIMAL GENETIC RESOURCES IN ORDER TO ENSURE THE SELF-SUFFICIENCY IN QUALITY FOOD IN SLOVAKIA


AUTHORS

Kubovičová, E., Makarevich, A.V., Baláži, A., Olexíková, L., Bauer, M., Vašíček, J., Ostró, A., Dragin, S., Chrenek, P.

ABSTRACT

Animal genetic resources are the primary biological capital for livestock development. Their sustainable utilization, development and conservation are essential for agriculture and food production, rural development and environment. Slovakia hosts a large proportion of the species that are threatened at the European level, and has the important responsibility for protecting these species within its territory. Further exploitation of germplasm of high productive and efficient breeds is a key component of the global food security ambitions. Sustainable intensification has already been a key objective for the livestock sector during the past decades and is also relevant from a global perspective. In Slovakia, the different natural conditions of the individual regions find their expression in the different conditions for plant and animal production. The decrease in agricultural production in Slovakia is reflected in a decrease of employment and in the consumption of milk and beef products.
The cryobank (within the programme of biodiversity preservation) conserves available semen and embryos. The aim is to extend the supplies of reproductive cells and embryos of the farm animals. Cryopreservation and storage of semen and embryos represents the basis of animal genetic resources under ex situ conditions.


KEYWORDS

animal, livestock, breed, biodiversity, climatic changes

INTRODUCTION

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) defines genetic resources as “genetic material of actual or potential value.”  Genetic material is defined as “any material of plant, animal, microbial or other origin containing functional units of heredity”(Convention on Biodiversity, 1992).

Farm Animal Genetic Resources (AnGR) are those animal species that are used, or may be used, for the production of food and agriculture, and the populations within each of them. These populations within each species can be classified as wild and feral populations, landraces and primary populations, standardized breeds, selected lines, varieties, strains and any conserved genetic material; all of which are currently categorized as Breeds (FAO, 2005).

Livestock systems have both positive and negative effects on the natural resource base, public health, social equity and economic growth. Currently, livestock is one of the fastest growing agricultural subsectors in developing countries. Its share of agricultural gross domestic product (GDP) is already 33 % and is quickly increasing. This growth is driven by the rapidly increasing demand for livestock products, this demand being driven by population growth, urbanization and increasing incomes in developing countries (Delgado, 2005).

Biodiversity and climate changes

The legally accepted definition of biodiversity, set out in the Convention on Biological Diversity, describes three levels of diversity: genetic, species and ecosystems diversity (Convention on Biodiversity, 1992).

Biodiversity is defined as “the variability among living organisms from all sources including inter alia, terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part; this includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems.”

Biodiversity includes not only animals but also plants, fungi and bacteria, all of which have an important role to play in the cycle of life on Earth. But climate change is affecting habitats, and species must adapt their behaviour to such changes or move to areas with more favourable conditions.

Biodiversity refers to a variety of genes, organisms and ecosystems found within a specific environment driven by population growth, urbanization and increasing incomes in developing countries and contributes to human well-being (MEA, 2005; Swingland, 2013).

Populations that are decreasing in genetic biodiversity are at risk, and one of the direct drivers of this biodiversity loss is climate change. Reducing the genetic diversity of a species means losing not only genetic ‘wealth’, but also reducing the possibility of the species to adapt to harsh environmental conditions and disease outbreaks.  Climate change may eliminate 15% to 37% of all species in the world (Thomas et al., 2011).  Temperature increases have affected species reproduction, migration, mortality and distribution (Steinfeld et al., 2007). The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment Report states that an increase of 2 to 3˚C above pre-industrial levels may result in 20 to 30% of biodiversity loss of plants and animals (IPCC, 2014).

The FAO commission on genetic resources for food and agriculture classified the breed risk status. The proportion of breeds classified as at risk increased from 15 to 17 %; the proportion of breeds classified as not at risk decreased from 21 to 18 % and the proportion of breeds reported to be extinct remained stable at 7 % (FAO, 2015).

The livestock species that had the highest percentages of risk of breed elimination were chicken (33% of breeds), pigs (18% of breeds) and cattle (16% of breeds). However, the breeds at risk depends on the region. Developing regions had between 7% and 10% of mammalian species at risk (not restricted to livestock), but between 60% and 70% of mammalian species are classified as of unknown risk (Rojas-Downing et al., 2017).

Livestock and plants will be highly affected by climate change and biodiversity loss. If breeds and species cannot be replaced naturally, therefore, future work that studies the inherent genetic capabilities of different breeds and identifies those that can better adapt to climate conditions is vital.

Climate change is a threat to livestock production because of the impact on the quality of feed crop and forage, water availability, animal and milk production, livestock diseases, animal reproduction and biodiversity.

Global temperature will rise by 2-3 ºC by mid-century, short-term weather events will increase and the temperature increase could be 4.8 ºC by 2100. The effects will be greatest in developing countries and climate change will be a major obstacle to poverty alleviation (Rojas-Downing et al., 2017).

Trnka et al. (2011) in their work „Expected changes in agroclimatic conditions in Central Europe“ concluded, that during the past few decades the basic assumption of agroclimatic zoning, i.e. that agroclimatic conditions remain relatively stable, has been shattered by ongoing climate change. The authors have found that by 2020 the combination of increased air temperature and changes in the amount and distribution of precipitation will lead to a prolonged growing season and significant shifts in the agroclimatic zones in Central Europe; in particular, the areas that are currently most productive, will be reduced and replaced by warmer but drier conditions, at the same time the higher elevations will most likely experience improvement in their agroclimatic conditions. This positive effect might be short-lived, as by 2050, even these areas might experience much drier conditions than observed currently. Both the rate and the scale of the shift are amazing as by 2020 (assuming upper range of the climate change projections) only 20–38 % of agriculture land in the evaluated region will remain in the same agroclimatic and by 2050 it might be less than 2 %. On the other hand, farmers will be able to take advantage of an earlier start to the growing season, at least in the lowland areas, as the proportion of days suitable for sowing increases. As all of these changes might occur within less than four decades, these issues could pose serious adaptation challenges for farmers and governmental policies.

Status of Threatened Species according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species world-wide.

The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ is the world’s most comprehensive inventory of the global conservation status of plant and animal species. It uses a set of criteria to evaluate the extinction risk of thousands of species and subspecies. These criteria are relevant to all species and all regions of the world. With its strong scientific base, the IUCN Red List is recognized as the most authoritative guide to the status of biological diversity. The Red List is now the world’s most comprehensive information source on the global conservation status of animal, fungi and plant species.

The Red List provides taxonomic, conservation status and distribution information on taxa that have been evaluated using the IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria: Version 3.1 (Fig. 1). This system is designed to determine the relative risk of extinction, with the main purpose of cataloguing and highlighting those taxa that are facing a higher risk of extinction. The threatened categories form a part of the overall scheme. It will be possible to place all taxa into one of the categories.

Figure 1  Structure of categories (http://www.iucnredlist.org/technical-documents/categories-and-criteria/2001-categories-criteria#categories)

Global diversity in domestic animals is considered to be under threat. A large number of domestic animal breeds are endangered worldwide, in a critical status or already extinct.

Despite enormous potential contribution to sustainable development and to reducing hunger and poverty, animal genetic resources for food and agriculture are underutilized and underconserved. At present, a substantial proportion of the world’s livestock breeds are at risk of extinction.

In the past 100 years we have already lost about 1 000 breeds. New findings show that domestic animal breeds continue to be in danger: one third are currently at risk of extinction.

The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species significantly contributed to guiding global preservation action. The goal of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species is to provide information and analyses on the status, trends and threats to species in order to inform and catalyse action for biodiversity conservation.

Currently, there are 69,903 species described on The IUCN  Red List, and more than 8,490 are threatened, including  mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fishes. The statistics shows that during the last 21 years (from 1996) the number of threatened vertebrate species increased from 3,314 to 8,490 (Table 1).

Table 1 Number of threatened vertebrate species

No of described species No of species evaluated by 2019

 

Number of threatened species in 1996/98

 

Number of threatened species in 2019

 

Species evaluated in 2019 as % of species described
Mammals 5,792   5,792 1,096 1,223 100
Birds 11,126 11,126 1,107 1,492 100
Reptiles 10,793 7,199 253 1,311 67
Amphibians 7,962   6,756 124 2,123 85
Fishes 34,200 17,228 734 2,341 50
Total 69,903 48,101 3,314 8,490 69

Adopted from IUCN Red List 2019

The European Red List is a review of the status of European species according to IUCN Regional Red Listing guidelines. It identifies those species that are threatened with extinction at the European level (Pan-Europe and the European Union) so that appropriate conservation action can be taken to improve their status.  To date 10,810 species have been assessed on the European Red List and regional assessments have been completed for all mammals, reptiles, amphibians, butterflies, dragonflies, freshwater fishes and freshwater molluscs and a selection of saproxylic beetles, terrestrial molluscs and vascular plants (http://ec.europa.eu/environment/nature/conservation/species/redlist/).

Among European 1.000 species of native mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians, 155 are classified as threatened.  Over the years, the European Red List has become a powerful tool to inform political leaders on biodiversity conservation and the protection of European natural resources. It is an instrument to measure progress towards achieving the EU 2020 Biodiversity Strategy and the Strategic Plan of the Convention on Biological Diversity as well as to guide the allocation of financial resources and support priority setting for conservation actions.

Status of AGR in Slovakia

Slovakia hosts a large proportion of the species that are threatened at the European level, and has the important responsibility for protecting these species within its territory. Species in Slovakia require greater action to improve their status. While many species already receive some conservation attention, others do not. Species can be saved from extinction but this requires a combination of sound research and carefully coordinated efforts. Slovakia as an EU Member State has committed to halting biodiversity loss by 2020, but urgent action is needed to meet this target and better monitoring capacity is required to measure if the target is met.

Considerable conservation investment is needed from Slovakia to ensure that the status of European species improves in the long term.

In Slovakia, the different natural conditions of the individual regions find their expression in the different conditions for plant and animal production. There are intensive lowland regions as well as extensive mountainous and sub-mountainous regions in Slovakia. In the lowland regions, farms with combined plant and animal production prevail. On the contrary, farmers in regions with a lower proportion of arable land (mountainous and sub-mountainous regions) mainly deal with cattle, sheep or goat breeding. Since the rural regions of Slovakia are afflicted with high unemployment rates, a return to self-supplying poultry, sheep, goat, pig and rabbit husbandry has become evident.

Numbers of breeds of cattle, sheep, goats, horses, rabbits and poultry belonging to the farm animal genetic resources in Slovakia monitored in 2016 are shown in Table 2.

Table 2.  Status of farm animal genetic resources in Slovakia

Breeds According to EFABIS (registered) Monitored in 2016
Cattle 16 15
Goose 4 4
Duck 3 2
Goat 5 8
Rabbit 43 46
Chicken 20 17
Horse 11 11
Turkey 1 1
Sheep 14 23
Pig 10 6

Cattle

The Slovak spotted and Slovak Pinzgau breeds belong to the cattle breeds of national interest (Kasarda et al., 2015). Although decreasing in numbers, the population of cattle is of great interest with respect to the food needs of people as well as its landscape influence. Since 1989 the numbers of cattle have tended to decrease. The highest proportion of animals belong to crosses of the Slovak Spotted and Slovak Pinzgau cattle with the Holstein breed.

Of purebred animals, the Slovak Spotted cattle represents the most widespread breed. In the purebred form about 50 000 cows are being bred, followed by the Holstein (35 000 cows) and the Slovak Pinzgau cattle (5000 cows). Mainly with the Slovak Pinzgau breed a drastic decrease in the number of purebred animals can be observed.

It is necessary to emphasize that the state of cattle (livestock) is a stable basis of animal husbandry not only in Slovakia but in all European Union.

Sheep

Before 1989 wool production was the main commodity in sheep. After that date, as a consequence of transformation and a decrease of the market price of wool, sheep milk and meat production became essential.

Between 1990 and 1999 the number of sheep in Slovakia decreased from 600 000 to 340 000, i.e. by 260 000 heads, which is 43 %. Since 1999, a reverse tendency could be seen. This trend accompanied by a slight improvement of the production and reproduction traits in sheep has been the result of increased care and mainly of economic measures. The economically most important sheep breeds are autochthonous –

the Improved Valachian and Tsigai, which are widely used for milk production.

Goat

Goat breeding is a marginal branch of animal production. Most animals can be found in the hands of small keepers (there are only 10 larger flocks in Slovakia) mainly under more difficult agro-ecological conditions i.e. in the poorer sub-mountainous and mountainous regions. In Slovakia, local breeds are bred, like the White Shorthaired and Brown Shorthaired.

The White Shorthaired goats are predominant among the goat population of Slovakia. Goats represent the livestock sector of minor importance, mainly farmed for milk.

Poultry

The global poultry sector is divided into a large-scale commercial sub-sector dominated by international, vertically integrated companies and a small-scale subsector that provides up to 90 percent of total poultry production in some of the least developed countries.

In the long term, the poultry sector in Slovakia, as a part of animal production, was stable, even though the transition to a market economy was proved also in the mentioned sector. Since 2004, Slovak poultry meat production has been increased by 2.9 %. In Slovakia, an increasing trend in the poultry meat consumption per inhabitant was observed. In 2010, in the total meat consumption poultry meat shared with 33.7 %, beef with 7.4 % and pig meat with 55.8 %. The change of market conditions due to the economic reform and afterwards an access of Slovakia to the EU in 2004 was manifested by a decrease in the animal number and the variable development of production. The average total poultry number reached 13 074 thousand pieces per annum. Relatively highest inter-annual decrease of poultry numbers was reached in 2006 (7.4 %) and in 2008 (12.8 %). The development of hen number was variable. The most significant hen decrease was marked in 2004 (7.8 %) (Jamborova, 2011).

To avoid crossings with imported strains in Slovakia, Poland and Hungary it was decided to collect purebred animals in one to four localisations to be bred in closed stocks. In the 1970s, the Research Institute of Animal Production in Nitra proposed creating a genetic reserve of three local strains: New Hampshire, Rhode Island Red, White Sussex and in 1994 a fourth one – Oravka (Benkova et al.,  2003; Hanusova et al., 2014).

Oravka breed was formed by crossbreeding of local hens in the Orava region with Rhode Island, Wyandotte and New Hampshire breeds. The breeding programme aimed at forming a dual-purpose breed with good egg production, growth ability and adaptability to harsh environment started in 1950s (Kadlecik et al., 2004). The breeding programme consisted of three consecutive phases (Chmelnicna et al., 2004), and Oravka breed was recognized in 1990. Oravka is a dual-purpose breed kept for egg and meat production, respectively. The animals are of yellowish-brown colour and of rectangular body frame. The live weight of adult females is 2.2 to 2.7 kg and that of males is 2.8 to 3.3 kg. About 180-200 eggs per female and year are produced. The egg shell is brownish. The minimum hatching egg weight is 55 g (Hrncar and Weis, 2007). A survey of Oravka living animals (breeding males and females) was done by Hrncar and Weis (2007) and Oravcová et al. (2010), respectively.

Geese

Geese are one of the oldest species of domestic poultry. There are two recognized national goose breeds in SlovakiaSuchovska and Slovak, as a combination of old indigenous breeds and still genetically undefined foreign introduced breeds. The Suchovska Goose is a result of crossbreeding of local yellow fathering geese with French (Toulouse, Landes) and German (Pomorany, Steinbach) geese. This breed of geese originated at the end of the 1980`s in the village of Suchá nad Parnou and was recognized as a breed in 1995, with a number of 45 birds: 21 males and 24 females (Kadlecik et al., 2004). It was produced in seeking to breed geese of bigger body frame, firm constitution and of compact and solid body. The geese are suitable for pasture. They are also suitable for small farming because of the preservation of the clucking instinct (Weis and Hrncar, 2009 a; b). In case of the  Suchovska goose its lowest population occurred in 2003 (67 birds: 26 males and 41 females) and at present there is 150 females and 75 males.

The Slovak White goose is a breed of domestic goose originating in Nitra in Slovakia. The Slovak White goose is an autochthonous breed of Slovakia. It was originated from regional breeds from the South-Western Slovakia in 1940s. Regional German and Hungarian types of goose were used during the breeding process.  Due to low population numbers (200 females and 100 males) the Slovak White goose is considered to be an endangered breed. Preservation of the local breed genome is important in order to save its unique genetic traits.  The Suchovska and Slovak geese were categorized as endangered breeds (Weis et al., 2010).

Rabbit

Rabbit breeding has a long-year tradition in Slovakia. The first two rabbit breeds developed in Slovakia were Slovak grey-blue Rex and Blue of Holic rabbit. In Slovakia, rabbit husbandry was applied to the research programs at the end of the 1960s at the Research Institute for Animal Production (RIAP) Nitra. The results of the breeding efforts in the 70s and 80s were manifested in the early 90s, when the changing political and social situation caused an interest in broiler rabbit breeding as a sphere of agriculture with a great commercial potential in the creation of a national breed – “Nitra rabbit”, which was introduced into The Book of Rabbit Breed Standards within Slovak Breeders Association in 1977. Twenty years later it was recognized as a national breed under the name “Zobor rabbit” (Rafay et al., 2014).

Nowadays, there are about 70 pure breeds of rabbits in Slovakia in many color types. Of this number, 12 breeds were generated by Slovakian breeders. At present, there are  (fourteen) Slovak national breeds (Nitra rabbit, Zobor rabbit, Zemplin rabbit, Slovak Greyblue Rex, Holic blue, Slovak pastel Rex, Liptov bald-spotted rabbit,  Zemplin pastel rabbit, Diminutive Slovak Greyblue Rex, Chrabrany rabbit, Gepard rabbit from Štrba, Saris giant rabbit, Slovak tricolor strakosh, Tatra baran) which are currently kept by breeders organized into Slovak Breeders Association. Some of breeds are represented by very small populations consisting of approximately 20 breeding females and of 10-15 males.

State of utilization of genetic resources

Pursuant to Act No. 194 of 1998 and the Regulation of the Ministry of Agriculture of 2000 on Performance testing, heredity testing, health testing, exterior evaluation of farm animals, establishment and management of herd book, breed registry, record-keeping and verification of the origin of farm animals, the following traits are monitored in charge of performance testing in farm animal species.

In cattle, monitoring is carried out of traits, such as milk performance (milk yield, content of fat and protein, especially in dairy and dual purpose cattle), beef performance and carcass traits (beef cattle), growth traits (weight of calves and young cattle, daily gain etc.) and other traits, like milkability, persistence of lactation, number of somatic cells in milk, length of production period, parturition course, ratio of still-born calves or exterior traits. These data represent a basis for genetic evaluation and breeding value estimation (for individual traits or aggregate selection indices) using modern genetic and statistical analyses and taking into account all accessible information on the animals.

In pigs, performance testing includes reproduction traits, field and station test, fattening and slaughter value or meat quality traits. Performance testing in sheep includes fertility traits, lamb growth intensity and milk production traits. In meat sheep, fattening and slaughter values are tested. At present, genetic evaluation of sheep using animal model is developed. Genetic evaluation of milk performance (animal model – test day model) has been introduced into routine. Genetic evaluation of other traits is under preparation.  

Goat performance testing includes reproduction and milk production traits.

Tomka et al. (2016) analysed the development of 15 breeds in the Slovak Republic using the data on purebred animals registered in herdbook in years 2005, 2010 and 2015.  These data are the part of the animal genetic resource monitoring, which is performed in cooperation with the Breeding Services of the Slovak Republic, s.e. and authorized breeders` organizations of respective breeds. Twelve breeds were classified as being endangered in 2015, from which 6 were classified as critically endangered. In cattle the class of endangerment of Slovak Spotted breed was not changed during the whole period. However, the effective population size was decreasing continually. Results showed an increase of purebred registered Pinzgau animals in first half of the studied period and a decrease in the second half. However, the effective population size was also decreasing continually during the whole period.

The cryobank (within the programme of biodiversity preservation) conserves available semen and embryos of cattle and horse breeds. The aim is to extend the supplies of reproductive cells and embryos also of other farm animals. Cryopreservation and storage of semen and embryos represents the basis of animal genetic resources under ex situ conditions.

Conservation of avian genetic resources in the gene bank is necessary for the preservation of endangered species. Cryopreserved biological material can be used for recovering the lost variation within breeds and restoring of the breeds, which have become endangered as a result of destruction of their natural conditions (Sawicka  et al., 2011).

In our institute NPPC-RIAP Nitra we  are dealing with cryopreservation  and storage of the genetic material like semen from bulls (Chrenek et al., 2017 a; b; Makarevic et al., 2018; Olexikova et al., 2016; Spalekova et al., 2012); rabbits (Kulikova et al., 2014; 2017), rams (Kulikova et al., 2018; Makarevic et al., 2012) , chicken (Svoradova et al., 2018) or embryos from cattle (Makarevic et al., 2014), rabbit (Chrenek et al., 2014), stem cells from rabbits (Kovac et al., 2017; Vasicek et al., 2011)  and DNA from honey bee (Bauer et al., 2017).

Molecular Characterization of Animal Genetics Resources

Characterization of animal genetic resources encompasses all activities associated with the identification, quantitative and qualitative description and documentation of breed populations, their natural habitats and production systems to which they are or are not adapted to (FAO, 2007). Characterization is typically differentiated into two categories: phenotypic characterization and molecular characterization.

The term „phenotypic characterization“ of animal genetic resources generally refers to the process of identifying distinct breed populations and describing their external and performance characteristics  within given production environments.

Molecular characterization or genetic characterization therefore, can be defined as the complementary procedures used to unravel the genetic basis of phenotypes, their patterns of inheritance from one generation to the next, within-breed genetic structure and levels of variability and relationships between breeds.  The guidelines on Molecular characterization published by FAO (2011) include a short overview of progress in molecular characterization of Animal Genetic Resources and prospect for the future.

It is obvious that in future special attention should be paid to establishing a gene bank of tissues, blood derivatives and DNA samples of farm animal genetic resources. Advances in molecular biology, principally in the development of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) for amplifying deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), DNA sequencing and data analysis have resulted in powerful techniques, which are used for the screening, characterization and evaluation of genetic diversity.

Genomic tools, like SNP-genotyping and whole genome sequencing, and their analysis offer great opportunities for the conservation and utilisation of animal genetic diversity, both among and within breeds. These genomic tools can be used to detect potentially valuable rare alleles and haplotypes. They are important parts of the genetic diversity we need to conserve now for possible utilisation in the future.

Some of the recently developed molecular tools or techniques and their potential application in conservation of animal resources include DNA sequencing,  conventional Sequencing Technique, next Generation Sequencing Techniques (microsatellites or simple sequence Repeats SSRs, single-nucleotide polymorphism – SNP, random amplified polymorphic DNA – RAPD, amplified fragment length polymorphism – AFLP, markers of sex-specific inheritance) (Pareek et al., 2011).

The management of genetic diversity with genomic tools is outlined both in vitro (gene banks), and in vivo (small populations of rare breeds or large populations with small effective population sizes).

Molecular characterization of animal genetic resource is offering unprecedented opportunities for increasing agricultural productivity and for protecting the environment through reduced use of chemicals for fumigation and control of external parasites. Molecular markers based on DNA have a high polymorphism level, and they have been successfully used for evaluation of genetic diversity and variation in breeding programmes with an impact on the level of genetic conservation schemes (Židek and Kasarda, 2010). In Slovakia, Šidlova et al. (2016) analysed genetic structure of Pinzgau cattle using  autosomal SNPs. Analysis of  genetic structure of populations and degree of diversity loss within horse breeds (Lipizzan, Furioso, and Nonius) that belong currently to most endangered warmblood horse populations in Slovakia was done by Kasarda et al. (2018).

The Global Plan of Action for Animal Genetic Resources

Animal development and conservation are essential for agriculture and food production, rural development and environment. In recognition of the need to develop an effective framework for managing these resources and deal with the threat of their genetic erosion in September 2007 brought together representatives of 109 countries at the First International Technical Conference in Interlaken (Switzerland). The Conference adopted the Global Plan of Action, which sets out 23 strategic priorities defining sense approach to the management of animal genetic resources. The Conference also adopted the Interlaken Declaration, which confirms the commitment of countries to implement the Global Plan of Action at the national level and ensure the use of livestock biodiversity in support of food security and their availability for future generations (Hiemstra et al., 2014).

Ratification of the Convention on the Biodiversity was confirmed by the Slovak Republic also in 1994 to protect biodiversity, to guarantee sustainable use of its components including also animal genetic resources.

The importance of animal genetic resource protection emerges from biological, economic, landscaping and cultural needs of each country that are realized using national gene banks (NGB). NGB should guarantee monitoring, collection and preservation of samples from genetic resources (spermatozoa, oocytes, embryos, somatic cells, tissues, DNA etc.) in original condition, deeply frozen or lyophilized, their storage, molecular-genetic characterization of samples, research-comparison of the genetic biodiversity, management of information system about stored samples and their use for original breed restoration.

National gene banks collaborate in EUGENA, the European Gene Bank Network for Animal Genetic Resources. The objective of this platform is a rational, efficient, regional, integrated conservation approach in Europe. Twenty five countries in Europe contributed to a survey to generate an overview of key characteristics of national gene banks including legal and institutional aspects, history of collections, collection objectives and documentation.

CONCLUSION

Domestic animal diversity represents a resource that is crucial to achieving food security for the rapidly growing human population, not only with respect to the local or national situation, but also because of the increasing interdependence among countries for unique animal genetic resources.

Identification of Slovak autochthonous breeds possessing unique genes in their genetic fund is of interest for the national, European and world genetic science and for livestock management practice.

The possible extinction of some breeds mean irrecoverable loss of the genetic variability and so the loss of unique gene and allele combinations that would be very useful in the future e.g. for the generation of new farm animal genotypes.

New development in cryobiology and reproductive technologies offer opportunities to store genetic material in many different forms and for regeneration of individuals from cryopreserved material. The national gene bank and the private breeding sector will mutually benefit from this development. Research is needed to analyse opportunities and risks of new technologies in the context of conservation and sustainable use of animal genetic resources.

Acknowledgement: This study was supported by the grants of Slovak Research and Development Agency: APVV – 17-0124, APVV-14-0348, APVV-15-0196.

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