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You are here: Home/Events/2017/03/14/Immigrants to the rescue! How can immigration help to save threatened wildlife populations?
Immigrants to the rescue! How can immigration help to save threatened wildlife populations?
Threatened species have invariably small and frequently isolated populations, and are thus characterized by increased inbreeding and depleted genetic variation. Increased inbreeding could lead to a reduction in reproduction and survival (inbreeding depression), which causes an immediate risk of extinction. Depleted genetic variation could compromise the ability of a species to adapt to an ever-changing environment, threatening its long-term survival. How to mitigate these adverse effects of small populations, and maintain a threatened species for short- and long-term survival, is a major task for conservation science.
Supplementing genetically impoverished populations with external unrelated individuals (immigrants) can be a valuable strategy to counteract the negative effects of isolation. This ‘genetic rescue’ effect occurs because the addition of unrelated genomes increases diversity in the recipient population, reducing inbreeding and inbreeding depression. Genetic rescue has the added benefit of increasing population size and larger populations are less vulnerable to random events, such as a natural disaster or disease outbreak. Despite the potential benefits of genetic rescue for the management of threatened species, there have been fewer than twenty published studies of genetic rescue/restoration for conservation purposes. Why has there been such a low uptake? The speakers will describe the hurdles, and illustrate how genetic rescue can be expedited through reintroduction and conservation programmes?