Using gene rescue theory to improve the success of conservation translocations
ID: 613 / 359
Proposed Symposium Title: Using gene rescue theory to improve the success of conservation translocations
Aline Finger1, Mike Smedley2, Duncan Halley3, Martine Borge1, Antje Ahrends1
Affiliations: 1 Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, Genetics & Conservation, Edinburgh EH3 5LREH3 5LR, United Kingdom 2 NatureScot, Inverdee House, Baxter Street, Torry, Aberdeen AB11 9QA, United Kingdom 3 Norsk institutt for naturforskning, PO Box 5685 Sluppen, NO-7485 Trondheim, Norway
We present a study that uses genetic rescue (an improved fitness due to the introduction of new genes) theory to help maximise the success of conservation translocations, the deliberate movement of plants for conservation purposes. Species in need of translocations often remain as small, scattered and isolated populations. This makes them vulnerable to genetic problems, such as genetic erosion, inbreeding depression and a lowered evolutionary potential. These genetic problems can decrease plant fitness and consequently make recovery work more difficult. Genetic rescue can help to overcome fitness declines in small populations and mixing genes can be a strong tool for creating more suitable plant material for translocations. Here, we put genetic rescue theory to practice, including all associated steps, such as gathering genetic background information on the study species, cross-pollinations in a nursery, and translocations. We’re using the alpine blue-sowthistle (Cicerbita alpina) as an example, which is only left in four very small populations in Scotland, UK, where it fails to reproduce. Like so many other species, C. alpina is unlikely to recover naturally and could be lost without human interventions. We demonstrate that cross-pollinations improve plant fitness (plant size, survival, flowering) at translocation sites. Mixing genes prior to planting species out can help increase the success of conservation translocations but requires time, space and expertise.