Conservation Genetics

David Coltman

in Ecology

ISBN: 9780199830060
Published online May 2012 | | DOI:
Conservation Genetics

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  • Applied Ecology (Environmental Science)
  • Ecology and Conservation
  • Plant Ecology
  • Zoology and Animal Sciences


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Conservation genetics is a multidisciplinary field that applies the principles of heredity to the preservation and restoration of biodiversity. Conservation genetics is an integral subdiscipline of conservation biology that is theoretically underpinned by population and quantitative genetics and to a large extent made possible to practice by utilizing the tools of molecular genetics. Recognition of the importance of variation in the persistence and vigor of wildlife populations goes back to Darwin, but the modern field of practice did not really emerge until the latter half of the 20th century. Views of the relative importance of genetic diversity in population viability and wildlife conservation have varied over time, at times taking a backseat to consideration of the effects of demographic and environmental stochasticity on extinction risk. Most conservation geneticists now view genetic factors as playing interactive and synergistic roles with ecological factors in determining population viability and extinction risk. The field expanded tremendously in the 1990s and 2000s for a number of reasons. First, the world is clearly experiencing an accelerating biodiversity crisis as a consequence of human activity, and this increasing sense of urgency has motivated all fields of conservation biology. Second, rapid advances in molecular biological techniques and increasing accessibility of genetic technologies have provided a generation of conservation geneticists with the ability to study genetic variation at the DNA level in nonmodel species. Third, the interpretation of these data has advanced beyond the simple assessment of genetic diversity through the use of more powerful population genetic models to infer historical demography, contemporary dispersal, cryptic population structure, and hybridization. In the near future, the increasing accessibility of ultra-high throughput sequencing technology will provide researchers with many new avenues such as the ability to assess functionally adaptive genetic variation so as to rapidly catalog and characterize biodiversity from environmental samples.

Article.  10965 words. 

Subjects: Applied Ecology (Environmental Science) ; Ecology and Conservation ; Plant Ecology ; Zoology and Animal Sciences

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