Conservation Genetics - an overview (2022)

Conservation genetics is an applied science, involving the application of evolutionary and molecular genetics to biodiversity conservation (see Allendorf and Luikart, 2006; Frankham et al., 2010).

From: Biological Conservation, 2010

Conservation Genetics

Richard Frankham, in Encyclopedia of Ecology (Second Edition), 2019

What Is Conservation Genetics?

Conservation genetics is the application of genetics to understand and reduce the risk of population and species extinctions. It deals with genetic factors causing rarity, endangerment and extinction (inbreeding and loss of genetic diversity), genetic management to minimize these impacts, and the use of genetic markers to aid in resolving taxonomic uncertainties in threatened species, to understand their biology, and in wildlife forensics. It is an applied discipline drawing on evolutionary and molecular genetics and genomics.

The need to conserve species arises because the biological diversity of the planet is rapidly being depleted as a direct or indirect consequence of human actions. An unknown but large number of species are already extinct, while many others have reduced population sizes that put them at risk. Many species now require human intervention to ensure their survival. The scale of the problem is enormous; 26% of mammals, 13% of birds, 42% of amphibians and 40% of gymnosperms are categorized as threatened by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), with similar problems in other groups, but insufficient species evaluated to provide reliable statistics for them.

Four justifications for maintaining biodiversity have been advanced; the economic value of bioresources, ecosystem services, aesthetics, and rights of living organisms to exist. IUCN recognizes the need to conserve biodiversity at three levels; genetic diversity, species diversity, and ecosystem diversity. Genetics is involved in all three of these. In what follows, the emphasis is on the first two.

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Conservation Genetics

Katie Elizabeth Frith, A. Rus Hoelzel, in Encyclopedia of Biodiversity (Second Edition), 2013

The Future

Substantial inference has been gained toward the more effective conservation of biodiversity based on the assessment of neutral genetic diversity (or diversity that was assumed to be neutral), greatly facilitated by advancing technologies for the more-efficient analysis of molecular markers. Allozymes reflected partial information because only coding regions were assessed and only some DNA changes were reflected in the different allozyme charge properties that could be detected as different alleles. “Chain-termination” sequencing allowed all base pairs to be analyzed for a given locus, but sequencing large regions by this method was time consuming. Something of a revolution in resolution was achieved through the analysis of repetitive DNA regions, which evolve by evolutionary processes (especially “DNA slippage”) that are faster than point mutational change altering DNA sequence. These markers are also relatively easy to analyze, and “microsatellite DNA” loci especially remain widely used.

However, a new era began once the first entire human nuclear genome was sequenced (Venter et al., 2001) based on traditional sequencing technology, and both the potential of having these data and the great expense and difficulty of generating it by existing technologies became evident (the Human Genome Project cost billions of dollars and took 10 years to complete). The new objective became the analysis of diversity across the genome, and at first this was facilitated by methods that looked at random loci defined by largely uncharacterized variation (amplified fragment length polymorphisms, or AFLP) and then by the more precise assessment of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP). Screening hundreds or thousands of SNP markers (e.g., using “microarray” technology; see Stoughton, 2005) allowed an exact assessment of genotype but still only represented a small proportion of the total genome. However, in the 21st century, the difficulty and cost associated with sequencing whole genomes was dramatically decreased by the advent of new technologies, referred to now as “next generation sequencing” (for a review, see Mardis, 2008). These methods typically sequence many fragments in parallel and use a new type of chemistry associated with the quantification of light released when DNA strands are extended (“pyrosequencing”; see Mardis, 2008).

The applications of these genomic technologies in conservation genetics are largely in two categories (see review in Allendorf et al., 2010). The first simply takes advantage of the much greater power availed by the very large number of neutral polymorphic sites revealed (e.g., to obtain more accurate estimates of Ne, migration rate, population structure (units of management), and populations dynamics). It would also permit better assessment of introgression toward management against breeding hybrid organisms. Although these applications permit greatly improved resolution, the other category offers something new. Although work on candidate genes has allowed tests for selection at functional genes, sequences from whole genomes will eventually allow functional gene systems important to conservation to be specifically identified and assessed. However, single gene effects based on mutational differences in that gene are likely to be relatively rare. Instead, phenotypes are encoded by multiple genes, genes may play different roles in different genomic or environmental contexts, and phenotype is usually determined to some extent by environment. Further, some genes control the expression of other genes (so called nonadditive interactions), and these expression profiles may be the relevant measure for assessing local adaptation. In some cases, differences in phenotype will be due to the ability of organisms with a given genotype to express different phenotypes, known as “phenotypic plasticity”. Genomic methods make the analysis of all of these aspects possible but not less complicated. The researcher investigating a whole genome is typically confronted with billions of bases of DNA, and one of the greatest challenges for the future will be finding the means to efficiently and effectively analyze those data. In spite of the limitations so far, the potential is great, and already significant advances are being made. Hundreds of nonhuman whole genome sequences are now available or are in progress at different levels of resolution, and a consortium of scientists is promoting the sequencing of 10,000 species (the Genome 10K project; Haussler et al., 2009). A major objective of the Genome 10K project is to promote biodiversity conservation.

Work to promote the conservation of functional diversity will be able to employ methods that permit the identification of loci under selection on a comparatively large scale. As described previously, there is a predictable relationship between diversity within populations and genetic differentiation between them (see Foll and Gaggiotti, 2008). When thousands of loci can be investigated at the sample time, then an assessment of this relationship can be undertaken for all loci at once, and the significance of outliers assessed, indicating candidate genes that may be under selection (Figure 4). So, rather than starting with the gene based on known function, it is possible to search for genes showing a signal for selection and then consider their function in the context of quantifiable differences in environmental or ecological factors. One of the first studies to apply this approach using genomic technologies involved a study of marine and freshwater populations of the three-spine stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus; Hohenlohe et al., 2010). The authors used a technique that sequences a subset of DNA from across the genome (but still including millions of base pairs) to identify SNP loci that can be screened among individuals at the population level. Hohenlohe and co-authors identified more than 45,000 SNPs and screened them among 100 fish from both marine and freshwater populations. They identified numerous loci that showed evidence for selection and found parallel changes that suggest a common signature for adaption to freshwater, indicating that large random mating marine populations had repeatedly given rise to freshwater populations, and that the adaptive mechanisms permitting this were comparable for independent events. This and similar studies in future will provide conservation biologists with key information about how biodiversity can best be protected. It will likely be possible to identify genes’ relevant major processes such as climate change, and it is already clear that populations showing little differentiation at neutral genetic markers may be differentiated at loci that are under selection (e.g., White et al., 2010), reflecting functional diversity that should be conserved. Conservation genetics is a field that is especially well-served by advancing technologies and is of increasingly critical importance as anthropogenic impacts increase and natural populations decline.

Conservation Genetics - an overview (1)

Figure 4. Under neutral expectations, there is a predicted relationship between the diversity within and the genetic distance between populations. This illustration shows how multiple loci can be screened for this relationship, where outliers outside 95% (light gray line) or 99% (dark gray line) confidence limits indicate loci likely under selection (ringed blue dots in the figure).

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Populations, Species, and Conservation Genetics

David S. Woodruff, in Encyclopedia of Biodiversity, 2001

II.A. Genes

Long before the term conservation genetics was coined, the phrase “genetic conservation” was introduced to describe the science of managing specific genes or phenotypic traits in crop plants, land races and cultivars, bacteria and fungi used in food production, and domesticated animals. Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are simply special cases that require even more intensive management for their perpetuation. The methods of gene discovery and artificial selection developed for managing microorganisms, plants, and animals are relevant to the far more broadly focused field of conservation genetics, but very few wild species have received such intensive effort.

Discussions of the need to save this or that desired gene in a population are in fact arguments for saving a particular allelic form (variant) of a gene and not the gene itself. Some alleles are common and others are rare. Deleterious alleles (e.g., alleles responsible for albinism or other genetic “defects”) are typically very rare and have frequencies of less than 0.0001. Conservation geneticists are often asked to devise breeding plans that will further reduce or even eliminate such alleles from a population. On the other hand, it has been argued that conservation geneticists should strive to save rare alleles in threatened populations because they may prove vital for a population's adaptation to future environmental changes. Although this argument is reasonable, the maintenance of desirable rare alleles, even if they were identifiable, requires very large population sizes (Ne > 5000) and is simply not possible in most management programs. Rare alleles contribute very little to variation in fitness among individuals and are less likely than alleles at relatively high frequency to be the basis of adaptive response to environmental change.

It has been suggested that conservationists should focus on saving diversity at major histocompatibility complex (MHC) genes because they play a role in recognition of infectious agents, disease susceptibility, and defense. This recommendation was well intended but rejected because the functional (fitness-related) significance of the large number of alleles at each of the many MHC genes is unknown. Managing them as a single linkage group would require very large populations or the inevitable loss of variation at other potentially important loci.

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Biodiversity in Plant Breeding

Irwin L. Goldman, in Encyclopedia of Biodiversity (Second Edition), 2013

See also

Agricultural Invasions. Agriculture, Sustainable. Agrobiodiversity. Biodiversity-Friendly Farming. Breeding of Animals. Captive Breeding and the Evolutionarily Significant Unit. Conservation Genetics. Darwin, Charles (Darwinism). Diversity, Molecular Level. Diversity, Organism Level. Ecology of Agriculture. Economics of Agrobiodiversity. Edible Plants. Endangered Plants. Evolution, Theory of. In Situ, Ex Situ Conservation. Feeding the World and Protecting Biodiversity. Human Impact on Biodiversity, Overview. Hybridization in Plants. Inbreeding and Outbreeding. Indigenous Strategies Used to Domesticate Plants in Brazilian Amazon. Loss of Biodiversity, Overview. Plant Biodiversity, Overview. Plant Conservation. Property Rights and Biodiversity

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Conserving the Flora of Limestone Cedar Glade Communities of the Southeastern United States

Ashley B. Morris, ... Clayton J. Visger, in Reference Module in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences, 2021

(Video) What is Conservation Genetics?

Lessons learned

Ecological studies have provided clues to P. subacaule’s endemism and conservation needs. Critical ecological adaptations to glade habitats have restricted this species, raising its risk for extinction in the face of continued threats. Moving forward, population surveys, demographics, and conservation genetic studies are needed to estimate the genetic variation available within populations and genetic differentiation among populations of this species. A species’ genetic diversity is an indication of what its adaptive potential may be in the face of continued threats such as a changing environment. Not much is known regarding seed dispersal potential in this species, and genetic studies could shed light here as well through spatial-time-series genetic assessments.

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Striped Bass and Other Morone Culture

Reginal M. Harrell, in Developments in Aquaculture and Fisheries Science, 1997

8.6.5 Cryopreservation

Preservation of fish gametes has been of interest to fisheries scientists for well over 100 years (Kerby 1983). While there are a variety of reasons to undertake long-term gamete storage efforts, two of the major purposes are for gene banking for genetic conservation and for having gametes available in sufficient quantities for hatchery production at a time when one of the sexes is in short supply. For instance, during the annual striped bass production cycle with wild populations, the males are usually found on the spawning grounds well in advance of the females and are usually scarce toward the latter part of the spawning run (Bayless, 1972). In this situation, it would be advantageous to have cryopreserved eggs during the first part of the season and cryopreserved sperm during the last portion. Likewise, cryopreservation is an excellent tool to assist in congeneric hybridization where there exists a temporal spawning isolation between species, such as striped bass and white bass. It also could be used to create conspecific hybrids among populations that are separated by latitudinal differences, e.g., where strains from Canada spawn later than strains from Florida.

To date, no one has been successful in effecting long-term cryopreservation of Morone eggs, and only a few efforts have been successful in sperm preservation. Howard Kerby of the National Biological Service published a series of papers in the 1980s on striped bass sperm cryopreservation and performance success of progeny produced by cryopreserved sperm (Kerby, 1983, 1984; Kerby et al., 1985; Parker, et al.,1990).

Common to the success of cryopreservation protocols is the use of extenders and cryoprotectants. An extender is usually a solution of salts, and possibly organic compounds, that help maintain cell viability during cryopreservation, while cryoprotectants are organic compounds that protect the cells during the freezing and thawing process (Kerby,1983). The most successful extender was OH-189,which was taken from a formula developed by Ott (1975) for salmonid sperm (Table8.1). The most successful cryoprotectant was dimethyl sulfoxide at a concentration of 5% (Kerby 1983). The freezing medium most successful was a ratio of 1:4 sperm to medium (v:v) and frozen in 1mL aliquots in a 2mL A/S NUNC polypropylene cryotube (Union Carbide,Inc.).

Table8.1. Chemical Composition of extenders used in cold-storage (#13) and cryopreservation of striped bass sperm. Values presented as grams of solute per liter total solution. Extender OH-189 taken from Parker et al. (1990) and #13 from George Brown, Iowa State University, personal communication.

Dimethyl Sulfoxide5%

Kerby mentioned in his seminal work in 1983 on striped bass sperm cryopreservation that some of the biggest hurdles to be overcome were controlling the freezing rate, variation in gamete quality among animals, and control of the thawing process. If the freezing rate was not correct, the cell could rupture due to formation of ice crystals within the cell structure. Mean freezing rates between 5°C and 20°C/min were more effective than slower rates.

Recently, the work on Morone sperm cryopreservation by Kerby has been continued by George Brown of Iowa State University, Ames, Robert Sheehan of Southern Illinois University,Carbondale, and Terry Tiersch of Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge (personal communications), which includes efforts on short-term cold (4°C) storage. While none of this research has been published, using their protocols in field trials at the Horn Point Environmental Laboratoiy Aquaculture Facility, we obtained excellent results with the short-term cold storage extender recommended by Dr. Brown (Table8.1). We observed sperm viability and effected fertilization two weeks after the sperm was first stored, which was critical to a diallele heritability analysis of swim bladder inflation (Harrell, unpublished data). Interested hatchery managers should contact Dr. Brown for the details. In a progeny performance experiment with cryopreserved sperm, Kerby et al. (1995) reported that in two pond experiments there were no significant differences in growth and survival between progeny stocked with larvae produced with fresh or cryopreserved sperm to the phase I fingerling stage.

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Conservation Biology

Laurie J. Vitt, Janalee P. Caldwell, in Herpetology (Third Edition), 2009

Publisher Summary

Conservation biology has emerged as a true scientific discipline and has succeeded in providing an understanding of many of the underpinnings of the field, including effects of pollution on populations of plants and animals, how to approach restoration of various habitats, how to manage endangered species, and many other topics too numerous to mention. Subdisciplines within conservation biology, including conservation genetics, restoration ecology, landscape ecology, and many others, have developed in recent years. A major focus of conservation biology is the maintenance of the world's biodiversity. Biological diversity is the product of organic evolution, and biological processes from the molecular level involving DNA to the biosphere are not intelligible without reference to organic evolution. It includes the genetic diversity embodied in these organisms, and the interactions among them that form unique communities and ecosystems. The study of biodiversity and its conservation require addressing diversity at several levels and in several ways. In addition to assessing the diversity of amphibians and reptiles, herpetological research contributes broadly to conservation management, both in identifying the causes of decline and in developing data on amphibian and reptilian biology, from genetics to natural history.

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In Conservation of Fish and Shellfish Resources, 1995


For a global overview of the management of aquatic genetic resources, responses to a set of questions were obtained in 1988 from nearly 40 scientists worldwide. They were contacted because of their knowledge of certain economically important aquatic animal species (see appendix) that were intensively managed and cultured or harvested (Table 4.3). Their responses, even after 7 years, provide an overview of the awareness and attitudes toward conservation and management of aquatic animal genetic resources.

Table 4.3. Taxa included in responses to a questionnaire on aquatic genetic resources management.

FamilyCommon NameScientific Name
FishesChanidaeMilkfishChanos chanos

Oreochromis spp.

Haplochromis spp.

CoregonidaeWhitefishes, ciscoes

Coregonus spp.

Prosopium spp.

Stenodus spp.


Common carp

Asian carp

Cyprinus carpio
Grass carpCtenopharyngodon idella
Silver carpHypophthalmichthys molitrix
Bighead carpAristichthys nobilis
CatlaCatla catla
RohuLabeo rohita
MrigalCirrhinus mrigala
IctaluridaeN. American catfishIctalurus spp.
MugilidaeMulletMugil spp.
SalmonidaeBrook troutSalvelinus fontinalis
Lake troutSalvelinus namaycush
Arctic charrSalvelinus alpinus
Brown troutSalmo trutta
Atlantic salmonSalmo salar
Rainbow troutOncorhynchus mykiss
Chum salmonOncorhynchus keta
Pink salmonOncorhynchus gorbuscha
Sockeye salmonOncorhynchus nerka
Coho salmonOncorhynchus kisutch
Chinook salmonOncorhynchus tshawytscha
Cherry salmonOncorhynchus masu
CrustaceansPhyllopodidaBrine shrimpArtemia salina
PenaeidaeMarine shrimpPenaeus spp.
MolluscsOstreidaeCupped oystersCrassostrea spp.

The scientists were asked to provide four kinds of information on a particular species and its genetic conservation: if the species is included in a management programme; the extent of in situ or ex situ management; the level of knowledge about genetics and population structure; and the priority needs or principal constraints relating to conservation. Responses to the questions indicated that the management programmes, the human activities, and the genetic risks to which species are exposed vary (Tables 4.4 and 4.5).

Table 4.4. Summary of responses to questionnaire about management activities for selected species.

ManagementHarvesting and Culturing
Species GroupModification of EnvironmentsCapture FisheriesAquacultureCultureTransfers
Based Fisheries and Intros
Common carpXX
Bighead carpX
Grass carpX
Silver carpX
North American catfishXX
Arctic charrXXX
Brook charrXXXX
Lake charrXXXX
Brown TroutXXXX
Atlantic salmonXXXXX
Rainbow troutXXX
Cherry salmonXXX
Chinook salmonXXXX
Chum salmonXX
Coho salmonXXXX
Pink salmonXX
Sockeye salmonX
Whitefishes, ciscoesXXXX
Cupped oystersXX
Brine shrimpX
Marine shrimpXX

Note: The management activities are organized according to the human interventions currently practised that may expose the species to genetic risks.

Table 4.5. Summary of responses to questionnaire about programmes for managing aquatic genetic resources.

Management Programme
Species GroupEcosystem MaintenanceSpecies ManagementLiving CollectionGermplasm Storage
TilapiaABA, B, RR
Common carpBBA, B, R
Bighead carpCBB, RR
CatlaCBB, RR
MrigalCBB, RR
Silver carpCBB, RR
Grass carpCBB, RR
North American catfishCBB, RR
Arctic charrBBB, RC
Brook troutBBB, RC
Brown troutBBBR
Lake troutBBBC
Rainbow troutBBBR
Atlantic salmonBBBR
Cherry salmonCBBR
Chinook salmonCBBR
Chum salmonCBBR
Coho salmonCBBR
Pink salmonCBBR
Sockeye salmonCBBR
Whitefishes, ciscoesCBCC
Cupped oystersCBB, RB
Brine shrimpCBAA
Marine shrimpCBB, RB

Note: A = Programmes implemented for the express purpose of conserving genetic resources; B = management programmes that provide some degree of genetic resource conservation, but that were not implemented explicitly for that purpose; C = no conservation activity; and R = research programmes addressing conservation of genetic resources.

(Video) BIO178 Week 9 Conservation Genetics: Genetic Diversity

Among the species surveyed, ecosystem maintenance is not a widely employed approach to managing aquatic genetic resources (Table 4.5). Although many national parks and sanctuaries include aquatic habitats and provide some degree of gene conservation, the parks were not established, nor are they managed, for that purpose. One notable exception is Malawi Park and the associated Aquatic Zone, managed jointly by the Malawi Fisheries Department and the World Wide Fund for Nature for the purpose of in situ conservation of the habitat and indigenous cichlid species.

The harvesting regulations, culture practices, and other management activities related to these species can be considered species management. However, species management for the express purpose of conserving genetic resources was not identified for any of the species encompassed by the responses. Respondents did indicate that for most species genetics was at least considered when forming management plans and policies. The consensus of respondents was that contemporary natural resource management practices provide some degree of genetic resource conservation. All agreed that genetic conservation does not receive adequate priority in management programmes such as those dealing with modifications of environments, harvesting and culturing, or species introduction, transfer, and enhancement programmes.

At the national level, few countries include genetic conservation as a separate entity in their natural resource legislation, especially that relating to fisheries and aquaculture. However, most nations have enacted regulations to prevent overharvesting and to provide some control over pollution or other activities that alter aquatic habitats.

Nations generally have legal controls on importing exotic or nonindigenous species for use in aquaculture or for introduction into open waters. Frequently the principal intent of such regulations is to inhibit the introduction of diseases and parasites. Invariably these regulations require all introductions or transfers to be accompanied by fish health certifications. The difficulty is with enforcement. Countries may impose restrictions centrally, or locally on farm sites, but usually they are difficult to enforce and often circumvented. A few countries still have no importation restrictions.

Several countries have outright bans on transfers in the interest of conserving their indigenous resources or protecting their native fisheries. Malawi is an exception among the African countries in its management of aquatic taxa and enforcement of protective legislation. Regulations on transfers of species in Malawi exist for the protection of indigenous populations, as well as restrictions controlling the exportation of certain cichlid taxa for ornamental fish trade. The country specifically bans the introduction of all exotic species to protect the unique fauna of Lake Malawi. Some states of India ban the introduction of all tilapia species as they are considered pests. The Philippines bans all exportation of milkfish fry, shrimp fry, and gravid shrimp spawners to protect its indigenous species from overexploitation. The United States and its territories ban the importation of several species, such as the green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas), that are protected or endangered and the finished products, such as meat, skins, or shells, derived from them.

Management of each of the species addressed by respondents involves some form of artificial propagation in hatcheries. To the extent that hatchery stocks qualify as living collections, this form of ex situ management was reported for all the taxa. However, in all but three species, these collections were established and maintained for purposes other than genetic conservation. The exceptions were common carp in Hungary, African cichlids, and the brine shrimp collection of ISA. Establishing and maintaining living collections of cichlid species from Lake Victoria is being attempted at the Horniman Museum and at Chester Zoo (England) (Reid, 1994), and in the tilapia collection implemented by ICLARM. At Chester Zoo, of 136 species of fishes held in aquaria, 36 were bred in 1993-4, including 19 of 22 species classified by IUCN as conservationally sensitive (Reid, in press). The products of captive breeding at Chester are managed cooperatively with other institutions in Britain and elsewhere. For example, a shipment of Tilapia guinasana, an endangered species from sinkholes in Namibia, has been sent to the Desert Fishes Conservation Program in the USA, and several hundred juvenile Haplochromis pyrrhocephalus, a Lake Victoria cichlid, to the North American Lake Victoria Species Survival Program. This latter programme, directed from the New England Aquarium through the American Zoo and Aquarium Association, is intended to consolidate and focus support by the professional aquarium and academic communities on the conservation and ultimate restoration of representative remnants of the endemic fish fauna of the Lake Victoria Basin (Warmolts, 1994). Among its stated goals are the creation of experimental lakeside refugia, three to be established by the year 2000. Currently, it coordinates the activities of 24 participant institutions managing captive stocks of 32 species of haplochromines and Oreochromis esculentus in aquaria in North America. Molecular genetic studies of these captive stocks are being carried out at the Ohio State University, and cryopreservation programmes are being considered. There is a similar captive breeding programme for Lake Victoria fishes in mainland Europe coordinated from Artis Zoo, Amsterdam.

Since 1974 the Dexter National Fish Hatchery, Dexter, New Mexico, USA has maintained living collections of several endangered species of desert fishes native to the southwestern United States. Although the species are not commercially important, the collection may contain the only survivors of these species (Stuart & Johnson, 1981). Similar efforts have been made in the US Southwest by the nonprofit-making Desert Fishes Council (Office of Technology Assessment, 1985).

The responses indicated that the genetic history, population structure, and genetic diversity of managed populations have been or are being studied. Most studies are elucidating the structure of breeding populations as revealed by allelic variation using protein electrophoresis. The genetic history of some species has been studied in the context of postglacial distributions, but the recent history of most aquatic populations cannot be determined because the demographic and genetic information has not been collected. Although substantial effort has been expended to study the breeding organization of populations of some economically important species, little effort is directed toward understanding the genetic basis of other components of diversity, including morphological and morphometric variation, life history patterns, and ecological correlates.

All respondents agreed that education and research efforts must be increased to meet conservation goals. Professional and technical training programmes are needed to prepare scientists, managers, technicians, and teachers to implement genetic conservation programmes. It was argued that most contemporary university fisheries curricula do not provide adequate preparation in subjects that are prerequisite to understanding and practising conservation genetics. Continuing education opportunities for field biologists need to be expanded through technical training at the local level. Educational programmes are also required to expand public awareness of genetic conservation issue. Biological diversity and genetic conservation should become standard elements of primary and secondary curricula and part of the general education requirements of college and university students.

Respondents expressed the opinion that continuing research is required to provide essential information for managing aquatic genetic resources. The need for reliable methods of long-term germplasm storage for aquatic species, including cryopreservation of sperm, ova, and embryos, also was identified. Most other specific research needs identified were related to a species of interest. However, the unifying theme was that research is needed to develop practical methods for assessing the vulnerability of aquatic species to loss of their genetic resources, and for determining the effects of human activities on them.

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In Conservation of Fish and Shellfish Resources, 1995


The conservation of genetic diversity must be an integral part of policies and programmes that affect aquatic animal resource development.

National policies that affect fisheries and aquaculture development can be extremely broad and varied, and may originate at all levels of government. They may be enacted in response to concerns about production, environmental management, or species protection, and are related predominantly to economic or ecological rather than genetic conservation.

Policies, such as those regulating harvests in capture fisheries, must be sensitive to the potential for adverse unintended consequences to peripheral species. Genetic conservation must be given greater weight in formulation of fisheries and aquaculture policies.

Culturing of captive stocks can have profound effects on the genetic diversity of aquatic animals. Where selection and breeding have been employed to develop populations more suited to production conditions, the potential for these to affect natural populations adversely must be addressed. Clearly this will require better understanding of the genetic diversity and population structure of wild and captive populations.

Maintenance of the genetic diversity of aquatic animal species should be considered when management and exploitation practices are developed.

The historical pattern in capture fisheries management is that typically initiation of harvesting has preceded management. The harvesters rather than the resource managers discover and develop fisheries. Management is implemented only in response to societal concerns about overharvesting, competition for common property resources, or both.

A contemporary management viewpoint is that fisheries stocks are subpopulations that have become genetically distinct and are adapted optimally for survival and reproduction in their environments. The assumption that differences in patterns of genetic variation between stocks indicate adaptations to different environments thus engenders a conservative approach to fisheries management that reduces the risk of inadvertent loss of adaptive genetic variation.

Fisheries management is in urgent need of methodologies and information that delineate clearly the genetic factors that influence variations in life history patterns. A better understanding of how information from genetic stock identification (GSI) and molecular methods relates to observable variations in morphology, ecology, and life history is needed.

The introduction and transfer of aquatic species should be regulated strictly by governments and should not be permitted without careful analysis of the potential ecological, biological, and genetic risks.

Often, serious environmental effects have accompanied transfers and introductions, whatever the economic result. However, the evaluation of the genetic and ecological impacts of exotic introductions on other genetic resources is often inadequate and uncertain. Even under the best of circumstances, unforeseen problems may arise. The introductions of common carp and brown trout (Salmo trutta) to North America and of rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) to Europe and South America are examples of introduced species that have colonized successfully. Unfortunately the degree to which the colonization was at the expense of other fish species can never be documented fully. Other introductions, such as that of predatory Nile perch (Lates spp.) into Lake Victoria, have been devastating to native species and have altered traditional fisheries.

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(Video) Dr. Christine Edwards on conservation genetics



Why is conservation genetics important? ›

Genetics has been an important focus of conservation biology because it helps determine the evolutionary context of endangered species and enables the development of better management strategies.

What's an example of a conservation genetic strategy? ›

The most prominent example is the study of inbreeding depression, that is considered to be an important phenomenon in conservation genetics, and is thought to be the mediator between loss of genetic variants through drift and the effects of this loss on the probability of extinction.

What is the need of conservation of genetic diversity of life? ›

Importance of Genetic Diversity

Environmental changes that are natural or due to human intervention, lead to the natural selection and survival of the fittest. Hence, due to genetic diversity, the varieties that are susceptible, die and the ones who can adapt to changes will survive.

What is the meaning of conservation genetic? ›

Conservation genetics is the application of genetics to understand and reduce the risk of population and species extinctions.

What is conservation genetics quizlet? ›

Conservation Genetics. The application of genetic theory and techniques to reduce the risk of extinction in threatened species. Preserves species as dynamic entities with the ability to adapt to environment changes. Genetic diversity.

How can we conserve genetic resources? ›

There are broadly speaking two basic approaches to genetic resources conservation, namely, in-situ and ex-situ conservation. In-situ means the setting aside of natural reserves, where the species are allowed to remain in their ecosystems within a natural or properly managed ecological continuum.

How do you become a conservation geneticist? ›

To begin a career in conservation biology, a student should expect to carry out advanced study in one or more of the relevant sciences at the graduate level. Many researchers have completed doctorates in biology, genetics, or conservation, followed by several years of post doctoral training.

How can we conserve genetic diversity in an ecosystem? ›

Gene banks (ex situ conservation) store seeds, semen and other reproductive material, which is crucial for the long-term conservation of genetic diversity. Maintaining breeds and varieties in situ/on farms also contributes to the conservation of genetic diversity.

Which is the modern concept of conservation? ›

Q.Which is the modern concept of conservation ?
C.National park
D.Protected forest
Answer» a. Biosphere reserve
1 more row

What is genetic diversity and why is it important? ›

All the biological data and variation that makes life on our planet work is encoded in DNA. This is known as genetic diversity. It strengthens the ability of species and populations to resist diseases, pests, changes in climate and other stresses.

Why is genetic connectivity important for conservation of species? ›

If gene flow is very low, genetic diversity at the small populations will erode due to genetic drift and inbreeding, making the populations prone to extinction. Eventually this initially appealing scenario is likely to lead to reduced diversity at the species level as well.

How many types of biodiversity conservation are there? ›

Ans: There are two types of biodiversity conservation In-situ conservation and Ex-situ conservation.

What is biodiversity and its conservation? ›

Biodiversity refers to the sum total of diversity that exists at all levels of biological organisation. Of particular importance is the diversity at genetic, species and ecosystem levels and conservation efforts are aimed at protecting diversity at all these levels.

Why are genetic resources important? ›

Genetic resources are essential to life and an important resource for the entirety of mankind. Our food is based on genetic resources, as are forestry products and our living environment. Furthermore, many medications and biotech products are also a way to utilise genetic resources.

What are the examples of genetic resources? ›

They include, for example, microorganisms, plant varieties, animal breeds, genetic sequences, nucleotide and amino acid sequence information, traits, molecular events, plasmids, and vectors.

What is meant by genetic resources? ›

The term genetic resources refers to any biological material which contains genes and/or metabolic material that may be derived from genes. They fall within the scope of the Nagoya Protocol whenever they are used for research or product development.

What are the main duties of a conservation biologist? ›

Conservation biologists protect and restore biodiversity and aim to understand and minimize human impacts on the natural world as well as on scarce animal populations. Through research and observation, conservation biologists help establish plans for maintaining habitats and animal populations at sustainable levels.

Are geneticists in demand? ›

The overall job outlook for Geneticists careers has been positive since 2004. Vacancies for this career have increased by 43.09 percent nationwide in that time, with an average growth of 2.69 percent per year. Demand for Geneticists is expected to go up, with an expected 8,240 new jobs filled by 2029.

What is the difference between conservation biologist and conservationist? ›

Whereas conservation biologists are the hands-on researchers and developers of conservation solutions, wildlife conservationists are the driving force behind getting those solutions to be actualized by society as a whole.

What is the best example of genetic diversity? ›

For example, the population of humans consists of individuals with different physical traits reflecting their genetic diversity. Apart from between species, genetic diversity may also be observed among species. For instance, the population of dogs may consist of different breeds of dogs.

What causes genetic diversity? ›

Genetic variation can be caused by mutation (which can create entirely new alleles in a population), random mating, random fertilization, and recombination between homologous chromosomes during meiosis (which reshuffles alleles within an organism's offspring).

What's an example of genetic diversity? ›

Definition of Genetic Diversity

For instance, every human is unique in their physical appearance. This is because of their genetic individuality. Similarly, this term encompasses various populations of one single species, like the different breeds of dogs or roses.

What are the 4 types of conservation? ›

There are four types of conservation
  • Environmental Conservation.
  • Animal conservation.
  • Marine Conservation.
  • Human Conservation.

What are 3 examples of conservation? ›

6 Nature Conservation Methods
  • Using alternative energy resources. ...
  • Establishing protected areas. ...
  • Protecting biodiversity. ...
  • Hunting restrictions. ...
  • Proper planting.
7 Jun 2021

What are the characteristics of conservation? ›

Conservation Priority Characteristics (PD9009)
  • Wilderness, or wilderness-quality lands (biologically/ecologically intact ecosystems, free of significant human intervention), such as High Conservation Value Forests.
  • Significant biodiversity.
  • Critical habitat for endangered or vulnerable species.
  • Wildlife habitat.

What causes loss of genetic diversity? ›

Inbreeding, genetic drift, restricted gene flow, and small population size all contribute to a reduction in genetic diversity. Fragmented and threatened populations are typically exposed to these conditions, which is likely to increase their risk of extinction (Saccheri et al.

How does genetic diversity benefit a population? ›

Genetic diversity serves as a way for populations to adapt to changing environments. With more variation, it is more likely that some individuals in a population will possess variations of alleles that are suited for the environment. Those individuals are more likely to survive to produce offspring bearing that allele.

What is the most effective means of conserving biodiversity? ›

In situ conservation methods are most effective ways to conserve the biodiversity of a region. The biosphere reserve is an in situ conservation method.

What are conservation implications? ›

The user determines whether a potential result will have a conservation implication (defined as a result that informs the re- covery of a species at risk), whether there is a need to adapt management practices based on this conservation implication, and finally, whether it is possible to implement the required adapted ...

How can genetic engineering help endangered species? ›

In recent decades, genetic engineering has made it possible to move individual genes from one subspecies to another, or even one species to another. It might be possible to move genes into wild species to help them thrive.

How can we conserve genetic diversity in an ecosystem? ›

Gene banks (ex situ conservation) store seeds, semen and other reproductive material, which is crucial for the long-term conservation of genetic diversity. Maintaining breeds and varieties in situ/on farms also contributes to the conservation of genetic diversity.

Which is an advantage of ex-situ conservation? ›

The different advantages of ex-situ conservation are, It gives longer life time and breeding activity to animals. Genetic techniques can be utilized in the process. Captivity breed species can again be reintroduced in the wild.

Why are wildlife genes important? ›

The field of conservation, genetics deals mainly with strategies to conserve or enhance genetic diversity within species' populations to promote their capacity to adapt, reduce the negative effects of inbreeding and random genetic drift, and ultimately, decrease their extinction risk.

How is genetics used in ecology? ›

Ecological genetics is the study of genetics in natural field populations. It focuses on traits involved in interactions between and within species, and between an organism and its environment, particularly those that determine fitness.

What is the best example of genetic diversity? ›

For example, the population of humans consists of individuals with different physical traits reflecting their genetic diversity. Apart from between species, genetic diversity may also be observed among species. For instance, the population of dogs may consist of different breeds of dogs.

What is genetic diversity Why is it important? ›

All the biological data and variation that makes life on our planet work is encoded in DNA. This is known as genetic diversity. It strengthens the ability of species and populations to resist diseases, pests, changes in climate and other stresses.

What causes genetic diversity? ›

Genetic variation can be caused by mutation (which can create entirely new alleles in a population), random mating, random fertilization, and recombination between homologous chromosomes during meiosis (which reshuffles alleles within an organism's offspring).

What are disadvantages of in situ conservation? ›

Disadvantages of in situ conservation

For example, disease and climate change. Habitats may be small and fragmented, so the area may not be large enough to ensure the survival of these species. Genetic diversity may have already been dramatically decreased.

What are the limitations of ex-situ conservation? ›

Answer: Limitations of ex situ conservation include maintenance of organisms in artificial habitats, deterioration of genetic diversity, inbreeding depression, adaptations to captivity, and accumulation of deleterious alleles. It has many constraints in terms of personnel, costs, and reliance on electric power sources.

What is advantages of conservation biology? ›

The benefits of conserving biodiversity

Preserving genetic diversity ensures the continuing existence of a wide-range of crops that may be able to withstand disease, and potentially useful biochemicals such as those used in healthcare. It also means availability of species for pollination and pest control.

What is the role of genetics in agriculture? ›

Genetic diversity is needed to safeguard potentially vital traits that could be used to combat an unexpected future pest or adapt to the needs of the world's food supply. Plant breeders utilize genetic diversity to create improved crop varieties with traits such as yield, pest resistance and environment stress.

How does genetics contribute to animal improvement? ›

Genetic improvement occurs when the genetic merit is improved through selection. The improvement in genetic merit refers to the overall improvement in a flock brought about by selection for a number of traits that contribute to the flock's breeding objective, such as high growth rate or carcase yield.

How genetics can be applied in animal improvement? ›

Genetic engineering in animal production has a growing number of practical benefits, such as in the production of transgenic animals resistant to disease, increasing the productivity of animals, in the treatment of genetic disorders, and the production of vaccines.

What are environmental genetics? ›

DNA collected from environmental samples—e.g., water, feces, surface swabs, or tissues— is an emerging source of information about the presence and provenance of organisms at a location.

What is genetic diversity in environmental science? ›

Genetic Diversity refers to the range of different inherited traits within a species. In a species with high genetic diversity, there would be many individuals with a wide variety of different traits. Genetic diversity is critical for a population to adapt to changing environments.

What is genetic evolution? ›

Definition. Evolutionary genetics is the study of how genetic variation leads to evolutionary change. It includes topics such as the evolution of genome structure, the genetic basis of speciation and adaptation, and genetic change in response to selection within populations.


1. What do genetics have to do with conservation? - Emily Orr
2. BIOL3468 Conservation Genetics 1 Extinction Vortex
(Dr Oatham)
3. Protecting Genetic Diversity: Conservation and Evolution Explained
4. Using genetic data to aid conservation | Juliana Machado Ferreira
(TED Archive)
5. Week 14-lecture 8-conservation genetics
6. Lecture 5: Conservation Genetics

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