Evol Ecol Res 14: 793-801 (2012)     Full PDF if your library subscribes.

Diminishing return of investment in genetic diversity

Lars A. Bach1,2,3, Cino Pertoldi4,5, John A. Vucetich6, Volker Loeschcke7 and Per Lundberg2

1The Interacting Minds Centre, Building 1483 3rd, University of Aarhus, Aarhus, Denmark, 2Department of Theoretical Ecology, Lund University, Lund, Sweden, 3Interdisciplinary Center for Organizational Architecture, Business and Social Sciences, Aarhus, Denmark,  4Department 18/Section of Environmental Engineering, Aalborg University, Aalborg, Denmark,  5Aalborg Zoo, Aalborg, Denmark, 6School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science, Michigan Technological University, Houghton, Michigan, USA and  7Department of Bioscience, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark

Correspondence: L.A. Bach, The Interacting Minds Centre, University of Aarhus, Jens Chr. Skous Vej 2 Bld. 1483, 8000 Aarhus C, Denmark. E-mail: lbach@cs.au.dk


Motive: Priorities in conservation management are often difficult to determine because we lack comparable biodiversity metrics. So that actions can be cost-effective, conservation decision-making and management needs such metrics.

Question: What suitable metrics can compare efforts and investments in biodiversity conservation? How can established measures of genetic diversity be combined with the economic return-of-investment paradigm?

Method: Use the return-of-investment approach, which has previously been restricted to issues of species diversity. Extend it to include genetic diversity. Use Taylor’s power law to relate mean abundance, rates of genetic deterioration, and principles of return-of-investment.

Key assumptions: We can specify the relationship between cost of conservation and population size. Time-series data are available for each population. We can approximate the effective population size (Ne) of a fluctuating population as the harmonic mean population size.

Conclusion: As the financial investment in conservation increases, the estimated marginal increase in genetic diversity diminishes. One can rank actions that increase mean population size according to their associated marginal increases in genetic diversity, thus evaluating which improvements offer the most value for money.

Keywords: adaptive potential, biodiversity, conservation, diminishing returns, genetic diversity, return of investment.

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