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  1. Abstract

    Conservation units (CUs) are an essential tool for maximizing evolutionary potential and prioritizing areas across a species’ range for protection when implementing conservation and management measures. However, current workflows for identifying CUs on the basis of neutral and adaptive genomic variation largely ignore information contained in patterns of isolation by distance (IBD), frequently the primary signal of population structure in highly mobile taxa, such as birds, bats, and marine organisms with pelagic larval stages. While individuals located on either end of a species’ distribution may exhibit clear genetic, phenotypic, and ecological differences, IBD produces subtle changes in allele frequencies across space, making it difficult to draw clear boundaries for conservation purposes in the absence of discrete population structure. Here, we highlight potential pitfalls that arise when applying common methods for delineating CUs to continuously distributed organisms and review existing methods for detecting subtle breakpoints in patterns of IBD that can indicate barriers to gene flow in highly mobile taxa. In addition, we propose a new framework for identifying CUs in all organisms, including those characterized by continuous genomic differentiation, and suggest several possible ways to harness the information contained in patterns of IBD to guide conservation and management decisions.

  2. Free, publicly-accessible full text available November 1, 2023
  3. Grether, Greg (Ed.)
  4. Free, publicly-accessible full text available August 1, 2023
  5. The unprecedented rate of extinction calls for efficient use of genetics to help conserve biodiversity. Several recent genomic and simulation-based studies have argued that the field of conservation biology has placed too much focus on conserving genome-wide genetic variation, and that the field should instead focus on managing the subset of functional genetic variation that is thought to affect fitness. Here, we critically evaluate the feasibility and likely benefits of this approach in conservation. We find that population genetics theory and empirical results show that conserving genome-wide genetic variation is generally the best approach to prevent inbreeding depression and loss of adaptive potential from driving populations toward extinction. Focusing conservation efforts on presumably functional genetic variation will only be feasible occasionally, often misleading, and counterproductive when prioritized over genome-wide genetic variation. Given the increasing rate of habitat loss and other environmental changes, failure to recognize the detrimental effects of lost genome-wide genetic variation on long-term population viability will only worsen the biodiversity crisis.

  6. Koepfli, Klaus-Peter (Ed.)
    Abstract A current challenge in the fields of evolutionary, ecological, and conservation genomics is balancing production of large-scale datasets with additional training often required to handle such datasets. Thus, there is an increasing need for conservation geneticists to continually learn and train to stay up-to-date through avenues such as symposia, meetings, and workshops. The ConGen meeting is a near-annual workshop that strives to guide participants in understanding population genetics principles, study design, data processing, analysis, interpretation, and applications to real-world conservation issues. Each year of ConGen gathers a diverse set of instructors, students, and resulting lectures, hands-on sessions, and discussions. Here, we summarize key lessons learned from the 2019 meeting and more recent updates to the field with a focus on big data in conservation genomics. First, we highlight classical and contemporary issues in study design that are especially relevant to working with big datasets, including the intricacies of data filtering. We next emphasize the importance of building analytical skills and simulating data, and how these skills have applications within and outside of conservation genetics careers. We also highlight recent technological advances and novel applications to conservation of wild populations. Finally, we provide data and recommendations to support ongoing effortsmore »by ConGen organizers and instructors—and beyond—to increase participation of underrepresented minorities in conservation and eco-evolutionary sciences. The future success of conservation genetics requires both continual training in handling big data and a diverse group of people and approaches to tackle key issues, including the global biodiversity-loss crisis.« less