Too simple, too complex, or just right? Advantages, challenges and resolutions for indicators of genetic diversity

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Sean Hoban, Jessica da Silva, Alice Hughes, Maggie Hunter, Belma Kalamujić Stroil, Linda Laikre, Alicia Mastretta Yanes, Katie Millette, Ivan Paz-Vinas, Lucia Ruiz, Robyn Shaw, Cristiano Vernesi


Measuring genetic diversity of wild species using DNA-based data remains resource intensive and time-consuming for nearly all species. Yet, genetic assessments are needed for global conservation commitments including the Convention on Biological Diversity and for governments and managers to evaluate conservation progress and to prioritize species and populations to preserve and recover genetic diversity (e.g., genetic rescue). Recently, indicators were developed for tracking and reporting genetic diversity status and trends for hundreds of species. The indicators quantify two simple proxies of within-population and among-population genetic diversity and adaptive potential: small effective size (Ne<500) and loss of genetically distinct populations. Indicators must balance scientific credibility, practicality, and simplicity. Here, we summarize the advantages of these pragmatic indicators; address critiques by scientists for simplifying assumptions and by policymakers for complexity; and propose solutions and next steps. We aim to support practitioners putting indicators into policy, action, legislation and reporting.



Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Environmental Policy, Genetics, Life Sciences


Convention on Biological Diversity, biodiversity, Indicators, conservation genetics, effective population size


Published: 2023-06-24 02:53

Last Updated: 2023-06-24 20:14

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CC BY Attribution 4.0 International

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