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Reconsidering the management paradigm of fragmented populations

By Oren kolodny, Michael R. McLaren, Gili Greenbaum, Marcus Feldman, Dmitri A Petrov, Ryan W Taylor

Posted 24 May 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/649129

Habitat fragmentation and population declines call for informed management of many endangered species. The dominant paradigm for such management focuses on avoiding deleterious inbreeding effects in separated populations, by facilitating migration to maintain connectivity between them, an approach epitomized by the "one migrant per generation" rule. We show that this paradigm fails to take into account two important factors. First, it ignores an inherent trade-off: maintaining within-population genetic diversity is at the expense of maintaining global diversity. Migration increases local within-population genetic diversity, but also homogenizes the meta-population, which may lead to erosion of global genetic diversity. Second, this paradigm does not consider that because many fragmented species have declined in numbers only within the last century, they still carry much of the high genetic diversity characteristic of the historically large population. The conservation of a species' global diversity, crucial for evolutionarily adaptation to ecological challenges such as epidemics, industrial pollutants, or climate change, is paramount to a species' long-term survival. Here we discuss how consideration of these factors can inform management of fragmented populations and provide a framework to assess the impact on genetic diversity of different management strategies. We also propose two alternative management strategies to replace the "one migrant per generation" dogma.

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