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ConGRESS genetics


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ConGRESS (Conservation Genetic Resources for Effective Species Survival) is an EU consortium dedicated to transferring current knowledge in conservation genetics and in the analysis of genetic variation data to management professionals and policy makers. ConGRESS is funded by the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) of European Commission.

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ConGRESS genetics

  1. 1.
  2. 2. Conservation genetics– a tool for species survival1. Conservation Genetics in biodiversity policy2. Genetic resources What is genetic diversity? High and low diversity3. For effective species survival Practical applications and studies
  3. 3. ConservationGenetics in biodiversitypolicy
  4. 4. Genetic diversity – politicallyimportant• Genetic diversity is recognised as a key component of biodiversity • Biological diversity is comprised of genetic differences within species, the diversity of species and the variety of ecosystems (The Convention on Biological Diversity, CBD) • Three levels of biodiversity: • Genetic diversity: between individuals and populations • Species diversity • Ecosystem diversity
  5. 5. Genetics in legislation• Until recently, genetics has been inadequately represented in European biodiversity policy• The Habitats Directive, the corner stone of Europe’s nature conservation policy, does not directly refer to genetic differences within species • Article 1i defines the Favourable Conservation Status of species in broad terms: • … it is maintaining itself on a long-term basis as a viable component of its habitats, the natural range is not being reduced and there is a sufficiently large habitat to maintain its populations on a long-term basis• In the USA, the Endangered Species Act defines species to include subspecies and distinct population segments
  6. 6. Why is genetics important foreffective conservation of species? • Can the challenges of the biodiversity strategies be met? • Can the conservation status of species be improved? • Can the viability of populations in their natural range in a long-term basis be ensured?Conservation genetics research indicates • Genetic diversity is important for both the short- and long-term viability and future evolution of populations • Genetic diversity is a buffer against population crashes in environmental changes• The Habitats Directive stresses the necessity of research in order to implement meaningful species conservation measures Laikre et al., 2009, Conservation Biology
  7. 7. Genetic diversity: an emergingaspect in biodiversity policy• The UN Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011–2020 requires strategies for minimizing genetic erosion and safeguarding genetic diversity (Aichi Biodiversity Targets, Strategic Goal C)• The EU biodiversity strategy to 2020 recognizes that the innovation potential of genetic diversity in ecosystem restoration is largely untapped• Article 17 of the Habitats Directive requires Member States to report about the progress made with the implementation of the Habitats Directive – the present reporting period ends in 2012 • Explanatory Notes & Guidelines for the period 2007-2012 recognizes that Favourable Reference Populations should be based on the ecology and genetics of the species Laikre et al., 2009, Conservation Biology
  8. 8. Future prospects?Conservation genetics offers• Highly applicable tools for measuring genetic diversity• Information to evaluate the viability of populations in the changing conditions• New methods for assessing favourable conservation status provided by the Habitats Directive• Help striving towards the goals of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the Aichi Biodiversity Targets and the EU biodiversity strategy to 2020
  9. 9. Genetic resourcesWhat is genetic diversity?
  10. 10. What is genetic diversity?• The genome contains the genetic code of an individual • DNA in most species • An individual’s blueprint is encoded in genes. The gene information is encoded by ‘building blocks’: A, C, G, T • The code of a gene varies slightly between individuals  this is genetic diversity Lynx family in Heinburg, Germany. Photos: Joachim S. Müller
  11. 11. Differences create diversity • There are often small differences in the code of a gene, even between individuals of the same population • These genetic differences contribute to individual differences in e.g. height, fur colour, temperature tolerance • More differences = more genetic diversity in individuals, populations and species Tawny owls (Strix aluco) with different plumage colour. Photo: Dick Forsman
  12. 12. Genetic diversity is everywhereGenetic diversity exists • Between individuals • Between populations • Between species
  13. 13. Genetic resourcesHigh and lowdiversity
  14. 14. High genetic diversity helpspopulations survive• Low genetic diversity can lead to inbreeding depression • Genetically similar individuals have a higher risk of producing offspring that have hereditary diseases
  15. 15. Endangered species suffer from lowgenetic diversity• Human induced changes have led to smaller population sizes • Habitat fragmentation caused by urbanisation, forestry, agriculture, fishing etc. • Lower genetic diversity and higher risk of inbreeding• 80 % of endangered species have lower genetic diversity (Spielman et al. 2004, PNAS) Clear-cut in southern Finland. Photo: Marjatta Sihvonen
  16. 16. Genetic diversity can reflectadaptation• Populations that have adapted to their local environment are expected to have distinct genetic patterns• Maintaining these differences can help to maintain the populations and halt genetic erosion Otters. Photo: Cyril Blazy
  17. 17. Genes for the future • Climate change is forcing species to adapt to new conditions or move away • High genetic diversity means there are more genetic variants that might be suited to the new conditions • Higher genetic diversity provides a population with more ‘tickets in the lottery’Dryas octopetala in the Alps, Italy. Photos: Sarah Gregg and Fabio Marini
  18. 18. Creating biodiversity Differences in genes (genetic variation) Differences in an individual’s characteristics Adaptation to changing conditions Locally adapted populations
  19. 19. For effective species survivalStudies and applications
  20. 20. What can conservation genetics doto help preserve diversity?• Where do individuals come from and what population or species they belong to?• Do populations mix in nature?• How to detect hybrid individuals?• Are populations suffering from low genetic diversity?• How to identify distinct populations and relevant conservation units?• How to predict the genetic outcome of management or harvesting decisions?• Are populations diverse enough for the future?
  21. 21. Where do individuals come from andwhat population or species theybelong to? X 
  22. 22. Genetics for forensics – saving Case studyendangered tuna species• The genus Thunnus comprised of eight species known as tunas• Several species widely traded including the Atlantic bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus)• One of the most endangered trade fish in the world• Traded as commercial commodities, the identification of endangered species is difficultViñas et al., 2009, PLoS One
  23. 23. DNA cannot be hidden Case studyin tuna salad• DNA-based methodologies provide very precise tools for identifying marine species• Using genetic markers, all eight tuna species can now be distinguished from any kind of processed tissue• This new DNA tool can improve conservation efforts and trade controlViñas et al., 2009, PLoS One
  24. 24. Do populations mix in nature?• If populations are genetically different, most likely they do not mix = no gene flow• Check whether populations are connected Photo: Mick Melvin
  25. 25. Assessing past and recent Case studyconnectivity• Bears in the Cantabrian mountains (Spain) are critically endangered (D) in the IUCN Red List• Formerly one large, but now two small, subpopulations separated by 30-50 kilometres• Recent isolation of these subpopulations can be seen as differences in their genetic profiles Perez et al, Ursus 2010 Photo: José Mª F. Díaz-Formentí Perez et al., Conservation Genetics 2009
  26. 26. CaseGenetic methods identified: study• Natural reforestation of intervening habitat has resulted in recent migration from the eastern to the western subpopulations• Two cubs as a result of ‘between-population’ matings• Gene flow, as would have occurred naturally in historical times, has been achieved! Perez et al, Ursus 2010 Perez et al., Conservation Genetics 2009 Photo: Bob Jagendorf
  27. 27. CaseDetecting hybrid individuals study• Hybrids: Individuals that have genetic characteristics of two species• Lesser white-fronted goose (Anser erythropus) listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List• Has suffered a rapid population reduction in key breeding populations in Russia, decline predicted to continue• The Fennoscandian population has undergone a severe historical decline, and has not yet recovered Lesser white-fronted goose that escaped from captivity in Espoo, Finland. Photo: Matti Rekilä
  28. 28. Captive population unsuitable for Case studythe wild• Genetic signals of hybridisation with two other goose species in captive population • Unsuitable for wild stock supplementation • Supplementation with other individuals from other wild populations recommended instead Ruokonen et al. 2007, Conservation Genetics
  29. 29. Are populations suffering from lowgenetic diversity?Conservation genetics can Monitor genetic diversity • Compare past and present levels Estimate population size • See whether population size is changing Plan breeding programs to avoid inbreeding or species mixing
  30. 30. Genetic rescue Case study• A population of Swedish adders suffered from inbreeding depression • Stillborn offspring, low genetic variability• Researchers released 20 males from a nearby population → breeding success and population size increased• Recovery corresponded to increase in genetic diversity Adder in spring mood. Madsen et al. 1999, Nature Photo: Marjatta Sihvonen
  31. 31. Gene banks within species
  32. 32. Identifying distinct populations• Genetically distinct populations can be valuable to protect• Conservation genetics can • Find distinct genetic patterns • Identify priority populations for conservation • Plan units for conservation or management Management Management unit 1 unit 2
  33. 33. Discovering distinct Case studygenetic patterns• Teno river salmon in northern Finland and Norway - one of the largest salmon populations in the world• Previously considered as one management unit • Conservation genetics researchers showed there were many distinct genetic units within the river Vähä et al. 2007, Molecular Ecology Vähä et al. 2008, Evolutionary Applications
  34. 34. CaseWhat do the differences mean? study• Changes in management strategies are being made to recognise and protect the distinct population units within the river • When deciding catch limits• Results suggest that individuals may be adapted to the specific conditions of each river section • Ecological information also suggests this Teno salmon. Photo: Panu Orell Vähä et al. 2007, Molecular Ecology Vähä et al. 2008, Evolutionary Applications
  35. 35. Prioritizing populations for Case studyconservation• Borderea pyrenaica is an endemic plant of the Pyrenees• Classified as vulnerable in the IUCN Red List• Only 12 populations in France Borderea pyrenaica in the French Pyrenees Photo: Marc Leclercq Segarra-Moragues, J. G. and Catala´n, P. 2010, Genetica
  36. 36. CaseThe problem of vulnerable species study• The high relative abundance of vulnerable species often precludes management of all populations and individuals• Vulnerable species require a cost-effective management plan • In France, genetic information was used to identify relevant conservation units in order to make a successful management plan for B. Pyrenaica Segarra-Moragues, J. G. and Catala´n, P. 2010, Genetica
  37. 37. Relevant Conservation Units of Case studyB. Pyrenaica• With limited human and economical resources, all 12 populations of B. Pyrenaica in France cannot be protected• Genetic analyses support differentiation of the B. Pyrenaica populations into different management units• Five populations would allow preservation of over 98 % of the genetic variation of B. Pyrenaica• This approach could potentially be applied to other low- extinction risk category species Segarra-Moragues, J. G. and Catala´n, P. 2010, Genetica
  38. 38. Predicting the genetic outcome ofmanagement or harvesting decisions?• Which individuals/ populations should be used for stocking?• Which individuals/ populations can be hunted? Hunting OK No stocking
  39. 39. Golden eagles in the British Isles – Case studyone or two populations?• Golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos)• Once widely distributed in the British Isles• Now extinct in Ireland, mainly found in the highlands of Scotland• Can the British population be used to reintroduce eagles in Ireland? Golden eagle at the bird of prey centre in Hagley. Photo: Alex Hay Bourke et al. 2010, Conservation Genetics
  40. 40. Past and present diversity Case studycompared by genetic methods• Genetic diversity of the modern British population was compared to British and Irish museum specimens • Only slight evidence for a loss of genetic variation • The population persisted despite ancient bottleneck• No evidence for population genetic structure • Therefore, all eagles belong to the same population Bourke et al. 2010, Conservation Genetics
  41. 41. Safeguarding one population and Case studyhabitat• The golden eagles of the British Isles should be considered a single population unit – the extinct Irish population was not differentiated from the British one • Individuals from the British population are suitable for the Irish reintroduction effort• The main objective of conservation measures: • Increasing population sizes by safeguarding of individuals • Habitat management Bourke et al. 2010, Conservation Genetics
  42. 42. Are populations diverse enough tosurvive in the future?
  43. 43. Seagrasses: genetic diversity and Case study survival in the changing world? • Seagrasses are an ecologically successful group of marine angiosperms • Seagrasses provide habitat for fishes and invertebrates and play an important role in nutrient cycling and sediment stabilization • i.e. help to maintain ecosystem services in a changing world • Zostera marina is the key species of seagrass meadows worldwideSeagrass medow in the Baltic Sea. Reusch et al. 2005, PNAS,Photo: Metsähallitus 2008 Procaccini et al. 2007, J. Exp. Mar. Biol. Ecol.
  44. 44. CasePromoting ecosystem resilience study• In 2003, an extreme heat wave hit the south-western Baltic Sea • Seagrass communities with higher genetic diversity recovered faster from the heat wave • Genetic diversity promoted ecosystem resilience!• The benthic fauna also preferred genetically diverse seagrass meadows • More genetic diversity in seagrass  more individuals of bivalves, snails and isopods Reusch et al. 2005, PNAS, Procaccini et al. 2007, J. Exp.Mar. Biol. Ecol.
  45. 45. Biodiversity in genes Case study– preparing for the future• Genetic diversity of key species can replace the role of species diversity in a species-poor coastal ecosystem• High genetic diversity can provide a buffer against extreme climatic events• Genetic diversity is important for maintaining both genetic and species diversity in order to enhance ecosystem resilience Reusch et al. 2005, PNAS, Procaccini et al. 2007, J. Exp.Mar. Biol. Ecol.
  46. 46. Practical considerations• DNA for genetic analysis is easy to obtain • Single hair, feather, scale or leaf• Costs: • 10 to 50 € per individual • 500 to 25 000 € per study • The overall price depends on methods and numbers of populations• Genetic work can be outsourced• Choosing the right tools is important • Contact conservation geneticists when planning the project • Advice available about samples and analyses needed to answer the questions you are interested in More information:
  47. 47. More information:
  48. 48. Copyright issues• The photographs in this presentation are used under creative commons license or permission by the photographer and should not be used for other purposes.• More information: • Joachim S. Müller • Dick Forsman • Cyril Blazy • Sarah Gregg • Fabio Marini • Mick Melvin • José Mª F. Díaz-Formentí • Bob Jagendorf • Marc Leclercq • Alex Hay