Evaluating the use of risk-assessment frameworks in the identification of population units for biodiversity conservation

Erin Liddell, Carly Cook, Paul Sunnucks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

Context. Managing small, isolated populations requires conservation practitioners to weigh up the risks of inbreeding depression and outbreeding depression when assessing alternative management actions aimed at preventing species extinction. Accordingly, it is important that research intended to guide these management decisions provides the relevant evidence to inform them.
Aims. We sought to determine the extent to which studies that use genetic analyses to identify characterize population units for conservation consider the key theoretical concepts necessary for making sound management recommendations regarding the desirability of amounts of gene flow among units, notably the consequences and relative risks of inbreeding depression and outbreeding depression.
Methods. We conducted a systematic search of the peer-reviewed literature for studies that attempted to identify population units of threatened birds and mammals. Using content analysis, we assessed the theoretical framing of these studies based on the discussion of key concepts concerning differences among populations.
Key results. There has been a significant increase over time in the number of published studies published over time that use genetics to identify population units for conservation. Many do not consider theoretical concepts relevant to the effective management of fragmented populations of threatened species. Mammals were more common than birds as focal species of studies, but the number of concepts used in the framing of the studies was similar for these two taxa, despite differences in their ecology and biology that might be expected to affect perceptions of distinctiveness. Nevertheless, species of greater conservation concern tended to have a slightly more comprehensive theoretical framing.
Conclusions. There is great potential for more studies to implement theoretical guidelines and practical decision-support tools when considering the best course of action for identifying appropriate population units for conservation management.
Implications. The identified gap in the literature we identify is likely to be impacting the ability of conservation practitioners to make evidence-informed decisions about how to manage the genetic health of threatened species; it would be valuable to improve this situation.
Original languageEnglish
JournalWildlife Research
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2020

Cite this

@article{1d994444dfdf4c4396468b7f83717895,
title = "Evaluating the use of risk-assessment frameworks in the identification of population units for biodiversity conservation",
abstract = "Context. Managing small, isolated populations requires conservation practitioners to weigh up the risks of inbreeding depression and outbreeding depression when assessing alternative management actions aimed at preventing species extinction. Accordingly, it is important that research intended to guide these management decisions provides the relevant evidence to inform them. Aims. We sought to determine the extent to which studies that use genetic analyses to identify characterize population units for conservation consider the key theoretical concepts necessary for making sound management recommendations regarding the desirability of amounts of gene flow among units, notably the consequences and relative risks of inbreeding depression and outbreeding depression. Methods. We conducted a systematic search of the peer-reviewed literature for studies that attempted to identify population units of threatened birds and mammals. Using content analysis, we assessed the theoretical framing of these studies based on the discussion of key concepts concerning differences among populations. Key results. There has been a significant increase over time in the number of published studies published over time that use genetics to identify population units for conservation. Many do not consider theoretical concepts relevant to the effective management of fragmented populations of threatened species. Mammals were more common than birds as focal species of studies, but the number of concepts used in the framing of the studies was similar for these two taxa, despite differences in their ecology and biology that might be expected to affect perceptions of distinctiveness. Nevertheless, species of greater conservation concern tended to have a slightly more comprehensive theoretical framing.Conclusions. There is great potential for more studies to implement theoretical guidelines and practical decision-support tools when considering the best course of action for identifying appropriate population units for conservation management.Implications. The identified gap in the literature we identify is likely to be impacting the ability of conservation practitioners to make evidence-informed decisions about how to manage the genetic health of threatened species; it would be valuable to improve this situation.",
author = "Erin Liddell and Carly Cook and Paul Sunnucks",
year = "2020",
language = "English",
journal = "Wildlife Research",
issn = "1035-3712",
publisher = "CSIRO Publishing",

}

TY - JOUR

T1 - Evaluating the use of risk-assessment frameworks in the identification of population units for biodiversity conservation

AU - Liddell, Erin

AU - Cook, Carly

AU - Sunnucks, Paul

PY - 2020

Y1 - 2020

N2 - Context. Managing small, isolated populations requires conservation practitioners to weigh up the risks of inbreeding depression and outbreeding depression when assessing alternative management actions aimed at preventing species extinction. Accordingly, it is important that research intended to guide these management decisions provides the relevant evidence to inform them. Aims. We sought to determine the extent to which studies that use genetic analyses to identify characterize population units for conservation consider the key theoretical concepts necessary for making sound management recommendations regarding the desirability of amounts of gene flow among units, notably the consequences and relative risks of inbreeding depression and outbreeding depression. Methods. We conducted a systematic search of the peer-reviewed literature for studies that attempted to identify population units of threatened birds and mammals. Using content analysis, we assessed the theoretical framing of these studies based on the discussion of key concepts concerning differences among populations. Key results. There has been a significant increase over time in the number of published studies published over time that use genetics to identify population units for conservation. Many do not consider theoretical concepts relevant to the effective management of fragmented populations of threatened species. Mammals were more common than birds as focal species of studies, but the number of concepts used in the framing of the studies was similar for these two taxa, despite differences in their ecology and biology that might be expected to affect perceptions of distinctiveness. Nevertheless, species of greater conservation concern tended to have a slightly more comprehensive theoretical framing.Conclusions. There is great potential for more studies to implement theoretical guidelines and practical decision-support tools when considering the best course of action for identifying appropriate population units for conservation management.Implications. The identified gap in the literature we identify is likely to be impacting the ability of conservation practitioners to make evidence-informed decisions about how to manage the genetic health of threatened species; it would be valuable to improve this situation.

AB - Context. Managing small, isolated populations requires conservation practitioners to weigh up the risks of inbreeding depression and outbreeding depression when assessing alternative management actions aimed at preventing species extinction. Accordingly, it is important that research intended to guide these management decisions provides the relevant evidence to inform them. Aims. We sought to determine the extent to which studies that use genetic analyses to identify characterize population units for conservation consider the key theoretical concepts necessary for making sound management recommendations regarding the desirability of amounts of gene flow among units, notably the consequences and relative risks of inbreeding depression and outbreeding depression. Methods. We conducted a systematic search of the peer-reviewed literature for studies that attempted to identify population units of threatened birds and mammals. Using content analysis, we assessed the theoretical framing of these studies based on the discussion of key concepts concerning differences among populations. Key results. There has been a significant increase over time in the number of published studies published over time that use genetics to identify population units for conservation. Many do not consider theoretical concepts relevant to the effective management of fragmented populations of threatened species. Mammals were more common than birds as focal species of studies, but the number of concepts used in the framing of the studies was similar for these two taxa, despite differences in their ecology and biology that might be expected to affect perceptions of distinctiveness. Nevertheless, species of greater conservation concern tended to have a slightly more comprehensive theoretical framing.Conclusions. There is great potential for more studies to implement theoretical guidelines and practical decision-support tools when considering the best course of action for identifying appropriate population units for conservation management.Implications. The identified gap in the literature we identify is likely to be impacting the ability of conservation practitioners to make evidence-informed decisions about how to manage the genetic health of threatened species; it would be valuable to improve this situation.

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JO - Wildlife Research

JF - Wildlife Research

SN - 1035-3712

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