Call for a Paradigm Shift in the Genetic Management of Fragmented Populations

Katherine Ralls, Jonathan D. Ballou, Michele R. Dudash, Mark D.B. Eldridge, Charles B. Fenster, Robert C. Lacy, Paul Sunnucks, Richard Frankham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

290 Citations (Scopus)


Thousands of small populations are at increased risk of extinction because genetics and evolutionary biology are not well-integrated into conservation planning–a major lost opportunity for effective actions. We propose that if the risk of outbreeding depression is low, the default should be to evaluate restoration of gene flow to small inbred populations of diploid outbreeding organisms that were isolated by human activities within the last 500 years, rather than inaction. We outline the elements of a scientific-based genetic management policy for fragmented populations of plants and animals, and discuss the reasons why the current default policy is, inappropriately, inaction.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere12412
Number of pages6
JournalConservation Letters
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2018


  • Coancestry
  • evolutionary rescue
  • fragmented populations
  • genetic management
  • genetic rescue
  • kinship
  • outbreeding depression
  • species delineation

Cite this