Do species conservation assessments capture genetic diversity?

Malin Cecilia Rivers, Neil Brummitt, Eimear Nic Lughadha, Thomas Robert Meagher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The best known system for classifying threat status of species, the IUCN Red List, currently lacks explicit considerations of genetic diversity, and consequently may not account for potential adaptation of species to future environmental change. To address this gap, we integrate range-wide genetic analysis with IUCN Red List assessments.

We calculated the loss of genetic diversity under simulated range loss for species of Delonix (Leguminosae). Simulated range loss involved random loss of populations and was intended to model ongoing habitat destruction. We found a strong relationship between loss of genetic diversity and range. Moreover, we found correspondence between levels of genetic diversity and thresholds for ‘non-threatened’ versus ‘threatened’ IUCN Red List categories.

Our results support the view that current threat thresholds of the IUCN Red List criteria reflect genetic diversity, and hence evolutionary potential; although the genetic diversity distinction between threatened categories was less evident. Thus, by supplementing conventional conservation assessments with genetic data, new insights into the biological robustness of IUCN Red List assessments for targeted conservation initiatives can be achieved
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)81-87
Number of pages7
JournalGlobal Ecology and Conservation
Volume2
Early online date26 Aug 2014
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2014

Keywords

  • Conservation assessments
  • Conservation genetics
  • Extinction risk
  • Genetic diversity
  • IUCN Red List
  • Range

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