Conservation of genetic uniqueness of populations may increase extinction likelihood of endangered species: the case of Australian mammals
Web of Science
AuthorWeeks, AR; Stoklosa, J; Hoffmann, AA
Source TitleFrontiers in Zoology
AffiliationSchool of BioSciences
Document TypeJournal Article
CitationsWeeks, A. R., Stoklosa, J. & Hoffmann, A. A. (2016). Conservation of genetic uniqueness of populations may increase extinction likelihood of endangered species: the case of Australian mammals. FRONTIERS IN ZOOLOGY, 13 (1), https://doi.org/10.1186/s12983-016-0163-z.
Access StatusOpen Access
BACKGROUND: As increasingly fragmented and isolated populations of threatened species become subjected to climate change, invasive species and other stressors, there is an urgent need to consider adaptive potential when making conservation decisions rather than focussing on past processes. In many cases, populations identified as unique and currently managed separately suffer increased risk of extinction through demographic and genetic processes. Other populations currently not at risk are likely to be on a trajectory where declines in population size and fitness soon appear inevitable. RESULTS: Using datasets from natural Australian mammal populations, we show that drift processes are likely to be driving uniqueness in populations of many threatened species as a result of small population size and fragmentation. Conserving and managing such remnant populations separately will therefore often decrease their adaptive potential and increase species extinction risk. CONCLUSIONS: These results highlight the need for a paradigm shift in conservation biology practise; strategies need to focus on the preservation of genetic diversity at the species level, rather than population, subspecies or evolutionary significant unit. The introduction of new genetic variants into populations through in situ translocation needs to be considered more broadly in conservation programs as a way of decreasing extinction risk by increasing neutral genetic diversity which may increase the adaptive potential of populations if adaptive variation is also increased.
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