A community-driven captive-breeding and reintroduction program maintains genetic diversity in a threatened freshwater fish

Sean James Buckley, Chris Brauer, Chris Lamin, Peter Rose, Diana-Elena Vornicu, Luciano B. Beheregaray

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Abstract

Collaborative approaches to conservation management are critical to respond to the ongoing biodiversity crisis. However, local community involvement in many conservation actions is lacking, especially within translocation and reintroduction programs. Similarly, rapid integration of genetic information into collaborative programs with local communities is rarely conducted. Here, we describe a community-based and collaborative reintroduction program for a threatened Australian freshwater fish, the southern pygmy perch (Nannoperca australis). We integrate on-the-ground translocation efforts by volunteers from local communities, captive breeding by a private aquarium business, and genetic analyses done by a research institution to provide a holistic framework for the reintroduction of southern pygmy perch. We evaluated genetic diversity, population structure, relatedness, and inbreeding across the duration of the reintroduction program using data from neutral and adaptive genomic markers. This allowed us to assess the ability of such a program to minimize inbreeding and retain genomic variation, and to promote adaptive potential of the reintroduced population. While genetic variation for the source populations was very low, we found no decrease in genetic diversity or increase in inbreeding across the program. These genetic findings support the efforts made by local communities and will further inform future reintroductions as part of a collaborative conservation framework. We expand on our empirical case study by describing a theoretical framework for integrating conservation genomics research with community-led conservation management programs and identifying the benefits of such a collaboration. Our study highlights the importance of multifaceted and integrated conservation management approaches to effectively protect and manage threatened species.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere13054
Number of pages14
JournalConservation Science and Practice
Volume6
Issue number1
Early online date7 Dec 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2024

Keywords

  • Australia
  • citizen science
  • conservation reintroductions
  • genetic rescue
  • population genomics

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