On the feasibility of estimating contemporary effective population size (Ne) for genetic conservation and monitoring of forest trees

2022 | journal article. A publication with affiliation to the University of Göttingen.

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​Santos-del-Blanco, Luis, Sanna Olsson, Katharina Birgit Budde, Delphine Grivet, Santiago C. González-Martínez, Ricardo Alía, and Juan J. Robledo-Arnuncio. "On the feasibility of estimating contemporary effective population size (Ne) for genetic conservation and monitoring of forest trees​." ​Biological Conservation ​273 (2022): ​109704​. ​https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2022.109704.

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Santos-del-Blanco, Luis; Olsson, Sanna; Budde, Katharina Birgit ; Grivet, Delphine; González-Martínez, Santiago C.; Alía, Ricardo; Robledo-Arnuncio, Juan J.
Estimates of contemporary effective population size (Ne) can provide valuable information for genetic conservation and monitoring, pinpointing populations at higher risk of genetic erosion, decreased fitness, maladaptation and, ultimately, demographic decline. There are however potential limitations in the application of commonly employed genetic estimators of contemporary Ne to widespread forest tree populations. Genetic isolation by distance within populations, small and spatially restricted samples, among-population gene flow and overlapping generations are factors that can potentially affect the accuracy of marker-based estimates of contemporary Ne, depending on the demographic scenario. In particular, we illustrate the uncertainty faced by forest researchers and managers when interpreting contemporary Ne estimates obtained for continuously distributed tree populations with large census size N. To that end, we use previously published genotypic data of 21 Pinus pinaster populations, including distinct sampling schemes, together with a widely used method based on linkage disequilibrium patterns observed in a single (one-time) population sample. We hypothesize that spatially restricted sampling might be the main putative factor behind the apparently low Ne/N estimates obtained for the large and continuously-distributed populations studied here. Because of its statistically-inherent assessment difficulty, we call for caution when interpreting marker-based estimates of contemporary Ne for monitoring widely-distributed tree populations or small genetic conservation units embedded within large continuous tree populations.
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Biological Conservation 
Fakultät für Forstwissenschaften und Waldökologie ; Abteilung Forstgenetik und Forstpflanzenzüchtung 
http://dx.doi.org/10.13039/501100009599 Ministerio de Agricultura y Pesca, Alimentación y Medio Ambiente
http://dx.doi.org/10.13039/501100014141 European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development
http://dx.doi.org/10.13039/100018693 H2020
http://dx.doi.org/10.13039/501100014210 Ministerio de Agricultura, Pesca y Alimentación
http://dx.doi.org/10.13039/501100007601 Horizon 2020



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