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Genetic diversity is overlooked in international conservation policy implementation

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The importance of genetic variation for maintaining biological diversity and evolutionary processes has been recognized by researchers for decades. This realization has prompted agreements by world leaders to conserve genetic diversity, and this is an explicit goal of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). Nevertheless, very limited action has been taken to protect genetic diversity on a global scale. International conservation efforts to halt biodiversity loss focus on habitats and species, whereas little or no attention is paid to gene level variation. By this year, 2010, world leaders have agreed that a significant reduction of the rate of biodiversity loss should have been achieved. However, gene level diversity is still not monitored, indicators that can help identify threats to genetic variation are missing, and there is no strategy for how genetic aspects can be included in biodiversity targets beyond 2010. Important findings and conclusions from decades of conservation genetic research are not translated into concrete conservation action in the arena of international policy development. There is an urgent need for conservation geneticists worldwide to become involved in policy and practical conservation work beyond the universities and research institutions.

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I thank Lena Larsson, Nils Ryman and two anonymous reviewers for valuable comments on the manuscript. Financial support was provided by Formas (the Swedish Research Council for Environment, Agricultural Sciences and Spatial Planning), the Swedish Research Council, Carl Tryggers Stiftelse. Parts of the work were conducted within the framework of the BaltGene project funded by BONUS Baltic Organisations’ Network for Funding Science EEIG. Support from the ESF Science Networking Programme ConGen is also greatly appreciated. This work benefitted from discussions and collaborations within the Working Group on Genetic Monitoring supported by the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NSF #EF-0423641) and the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NSF #DEB-0553768) and chaired by Drs. Fred W. Allendorf and Michael K. Schwartz.

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Correspondence to Linda Laikre.

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Laikre, L. Genetic diversity is overlooked in international conservation policy implementation. Conserv Genet 11, 349–354 (2010).

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