Genetic rescue is a critical conservation strategy that goes unaddressed in the recovery plans of at-risk species in the United States, say researchers.

During a recent review of the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s recovery plans for more than 200 endangered and threatened vertebrate species in the United States, researchers made an interesting discovery. They found that two-thirds of these species could benefit from a gene-boosting diversity strategy known as genetic rescue. Surprisingly, just three of these plans to support species recovery currently use this approach.

Genetic rescue is an increase in population size caused by the movement of new genetic material from one population to another. This can happen through either human-assisted intervention or natural migration. As a conservation tool, this strategy can increase the genetic diversity of small, isolated populations and help them recover from inbreeding.

“These small, isolated populations are becoming more frequent, fragmented, and in trouble,” says Sarah Fitzpatrick, an associate professor in the department of integrative biology at Michigan State University and a faculty member at the W.K. Kellogg Biological Station (KBS). “They might benefit from some human-assisted migration to help infuse deteriorating populations with more genetic variation, which can help them respond to changes in the environment as well.”

Read the full article about genetic rescue by Emilie Lorditch at Futurity.