Conservation genetics: from species to habitats


Conservation genetics - and indeed conservation in general - falls into the two broad areas of the identification and preservation of (1) endangered species and (2) habitats with high biodiversity. Most research has been towards the first aim, with hard-won findings on the importance of genetic variation in population management, but genetics promises to be at least as important in the second aim. To this end, molecular phylogenies have long been proposed as an important approach that can capture conservation worth and evolutionary distinctiveness better than simple species richness and avoid common problems in defining species identity and boundaries. Progressively faster and cheaper DNA sequencing and the rise of DNA barcoding are making the phylogenetic approach to habitat conservation widely applicable. Barcoding was seen initially solely as a means to species discovery and to species identification, but it now holds promise as a resource-efficient means of rapidly estimating the evolutionary history preserved by different sets of reserves. Initial indications are that biodiversity assessment, using the short cox1 sequence standard for barcoding animals, reliably reflects the picture from longer sequences. The phylogenetic approach, assisted by barcoding, not only infers evolutionary history but also in synergy with morphology will speed species discovery and the subsequent expansion of general biological knowledge.


Crozier, Agapow, Smith (2009) "Conservation Genetics: from species to habitat" Biol Int 47:73-79