Using conservation genetics to prioritise management options for an endangered songbird

Fernanda Alves, Sam C. Banks, Max Edworthy, Dejan Stojanovic, Naomi E. Langmore, Robert Heinsohn

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Genetic data can be highly informative for answering questions relevant to practical conservation efforts, but remain one of the most neglected aspects of species recovery plans. Framing genetic questions with reference to practical and tractable conservation objectives can help bypass this limitation of the application of genetics in conservation. Using a single-nucleotide polymorphism dataset from reduced-representation sequencing (DArTSeq), we conducted a genetic assessment of remnant populations of the endangered forty-spotted pardalote (Pardalotus quadragintus), a songbird endemic to Tasmania, Australia. Our objectives were to inform strategies for the conservation of genetic diversity in the species and estimate effective population sizes and patterns of inter-population movement to identify management units relevant to population conservation and habitat restoration. We show population genetic structure and identify two small populations on mainland Tasmania as ‘satellites’ of larger Bruny Island populations connected by migration. Our data identify management units for conservation objectives relating to genetic diversity and habitat restoration. Although our results do not indicate the immediate need to genetically manage populations, the small effective population sizes we estimated for some populations indicate that they are vulnerable to genetic drift, highlighting the urgent need to implement habitat restoration to increase population size and to conduct genetic monitoring. We discuss how our genetic assessment can be used to inform management interventions for the forty-spotted pardalote and show that by assessing contemporary genetic aspects, valuable information for conservation planning and decision-making can be produced to guide actions that account for genetic diversity and increase chances of recovery in species of conservation concern.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)289-301
Number of pages13
Issue number5
Early online date5 Apr 2023
Publication statusPublished - May 2023


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