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Targeted gene flow for conservation

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Anthropogenic threats often impose strong selection on affected populations, causing rapid evolutionary responses. Unfortunately, these adaptive responses are rarely harnessed for conservation. We suggest that conservation managers pay close attention to adaptive processes and geographic variation, with an eye to using them for conservation goals. Translocating pre‐adapted individuals into recipient populations is currently considered a potentially important management tool in the face of climate change. Targeted gene flow, which involves moving individuals with favorable traits to areas where these traits would have a conservation benefit, could have a much broader application in conservation. Across a species’ range there may be long‐standing geographic variation in traits or variation may have rapidly developed in response to a threatening process. Targeted gene flow could be used to promote natural resistance to threats to increase species resilience. We suggest that targeted gene flow is a currently underappreciated strategy in conservation that has applications ranging from the management of invasive species and their impacts to controlling the impact and virulence of pathogens.
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Keywords: adaptación; adaptation; assisted gene flow; assisted gene transfer; evolución rápida; flujo génico asistido; manejo de poblaciones; population management; rapid evolution; reubicación; transferencia génica asistida; translocation

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 1, 2016

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