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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