, Volume 8, Issue 2, pp 167-176

Determining size and dispersion of minimum viable populations for land management planning and species conservation

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The concept of minimum populations of wildlife and plants has only recently been discussed in the literature. Population genetics has emerged as a basic underlying criterion for determining minimum population size. This paper presents a genetic framework and procedure for determining minimum viable population size and dispersion strategies in the context of multiple-use land management planning. A procedure is presented for determining minimum population size based on maintenance of genetic heterozygosity and reduction of inbreeding. A minimum effective population size (N e ) of 50 breeding animals is taken from the literature as the minimum shortterm size to keep inbreeding below 1% per generation. Steps in the procedure adjustN e to account for variance in progeny number, unequal sex ratios, overlapping generations, population fluctuations, and period of habitat/population constraint. The result is an approximate census number that falls within a range of effective population size of 50–500 individuals. This population range defines the time range of short- to long-term population fitness and evolutionary potential. The length of the term is a relative function of the species generation time. Two population dispersion strategies are proposed: core population and dispersed population.