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Conservation Genetics

, Volume 16, Issue 5, pp 1167–1180 | Cite as

Estimating effective population size of guanacos in Patagonia: an integrative approach for wildlife conservation

  • Ronald J. SarnoEmail author
  • David E. Jennings
  • William L. Franklin
Research Article

Abstract

By the mid-1900s the guanaco (Lama guanicoe) approached extinction in southern South America due to habitat destruction and hunting. In order to maintain the ecological prominence of this iconic species, as well as assist in the management of populations that are emerging economically while increasing in conservation value, accurate and potentially rapid estimates of effective population size (Ne) (demographic and/or genetic) are essential. Estimates of Ne generally focus on the genetic effective population size; however, we posited that both parameters may be necessary to provide more accurate and timely estimates. Therefore, we examined the performance of three demographic and four genetic estimators of Ne of guanacos in Torres del Paine National Park, Chile, at different years and time intervals between 1987 and 1997. We compared our estimates with census estimates of the adult population size (Nac) during the same time period. Average Ne/Nac ratios of demographic estimates varied between 0.04 and 0.99 of the adult census size. Genetic estimates varied between 0.02 and 0.08 of the adult census size. Based upon group composition and population size (n = 82) of guanacos in 1975, the number of breeding adults was 44 animals. Mean Ne of the single-sample and temporal genetic estimators was 43.1, and 34.3, respectively; estimated Ne of one of the demographic estimators was 41. Our findings suggest that intermittent genetic estimates of Ne (via fecal samples, carcasses, blood collection during capture, and/or other non-invasive methods) can provide crucial information regarding the genetic integrity of increasingly isolated populations of wild South American camelids. Considering the overall performance of these estimators, and differences in how each functions, we recommend an integrative approach using both genetic and demographic estimators, to evaluate Ne for the wild South American camelids and other species with polygynous mating systems.

Keywords

Conservation genetics Lama guanicoe Camelids Effective population size Patagonia Polygynous mating systems 

Notes

Acknowledgments

We thank the Chilean National Forestry and Park Service (CONAF), and the administration at Torres del Paine National Park, particularly Guillermo Santana, Juan Toro and Nicolás Soto. Dr. Russ Hunter DVM, Jan Marts, Brian Soppe, Dick Schmits, Mike Behl, Beth Behl, Tina Chladny, John Reed, Carrie Bergman, Kari Stueckrath, John Rathje, Tim Sulser, Stephanie Shoemaker, Dr. Kathryn Guderian DVM, Eric and Kim Gaylord, Kelly Nielsen, Anne Engh, Paul Heaven, Irene O’Connell, Walter Prexl, Mike Bank, Warren Johnson, and the participants of Patagonia Research Expeditions assisted in blood collection. Michael Parsons and Al Roca provided helpful comments on previous versions of the MS. Pierre Berthier, Jinlian Wang provided insight into the use of TM3 and MLNE. Robin Waples and David Tallmon answered numerous questions regarding program performance and statistical inference for LDNe and ONeSAMP, respectively. Richard Trapmore wrote the code in C# and Evan Carson provided suggestions how to structure simulations. Two anonymous reviewers also provided many useful suggestions. Capture, handling and blood exportation permits were issued by Servicio Agricola y Ganadero (SAG). Permits to import blood samples into the US were issued by the USDA to Ronald J. Sarno. This study was supported by Patagonia Research Expeditions, National Science Foundation Grant No. BSR-9112826, and Organization of American States Grant No. 19104.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ronald J. Sarno
    • 1
    Email author
  • David E. Jennings
    • 2
  • William L. Franklin
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Biology114 Hofstra UniversityHempsteadUSA
  2. 2.Department of EntomologyUniversity of MarylandCollege ParkUSA
  3. 3.Department of Animal EcologyIowa State UniversityAmesUSA

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