All species originated somewhere; such sites are called ‘centres of origin’. Often centres of origin have high diversity both in numbers of closely related species and genetic variability within species, so they may also be ‘centres of diversity’. Central Asia is the centre of origin and of diversity for many globally significant fruit and nut tree species.
For example, apples, eaten by billions of people worldwide, originated in Central Asia. Several wild apple species still grow in the natural forests of Central Asian countries such as Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. One of these, Malus sieversii, is considered to be a principal progenitor of domesticated apple and is red-listed by the IUCN because it is threatened by over-exploitation, livestock grazing and other anthropogenic pressures (Eastwood, Lazkov and Newton 2009). The genetic diversity of the wild species and semi-domesticated varieties of apple and other fruit and nut tree species that still grow in the region is a very important resource used by breeders to continue to improve nutritional quality, flavour, resistance to drought and pests and other characteristics of these fruit crops.
Learn more about the importance of trees for food and livelihoods.