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Prioritising source populations for supplementing genetic diversity of reintroduced southern brown bandicoots Isoodon obesulus obesulus

Abstract

Reintroduction programs can benefit from optimisation of source populations to maximise genetic diversity. Here, we report an approach to guide genetic supplementation of founder individuals to maximise genetic diversity in a reintroduction program for a nationally threatened Australian ground-dwelling marsupial, the southern brown bandicoot (eastern subspecies), Isoodon obesulus obesulus. Following local extinction ~ 100 years earlier, founding individuals were reintroduced to Booderee National Park in south-eastern Australia over three years from the nearest viable wild population, approximately 250 km to the south. To assess and manage risks associated with low genetic diversity, we measured genetic diversity of the reintroduced population relative to the diversity across the subspecies’ range. The genetic diversity of the initial founder population was comparable with other sampled populations; most likely because the source population had high genetic diversity relative to other locations. We simulated scenarios of supplementation of the founder population from alternative candidate sources. We identified populations in the Melbourne region of Victoria as those that would yield the greatest increase in genetic diversity in the Booderee population. The simulated increase in diversity resulting from supplementation was accurately predicted by the pairwise FST comparison between the candidate and recipient population, but not diversity of the supplementation source itself. Genetic diversity is an important consideration in reintroductions; our study enables managers to make informed decisions to maximise the long-term persistence and genetic diversity of reintroduced populations.

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Data availability

The data generated during our study are available in Dryad, with the following citation and link. Robinson NM, Banks SC (2020) Raw SNP data for Isoodon obesulus obesulus. Dryad. https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.k98sf7m3g

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Acknowledgements

This research received funding from the Australian Government’s National Environmental Science Program through the Threatened Species Recovery Hub. Project partners include Nick Dexter of Booderee National Park (Parks Australia), The Wreck Bay Aboriginal Community Council, Rohan Bilney (Forestry Corporation of New South Wales) and Karrie Rose and Jane Hall of the Taronga Conservation Society. Many thanks to those who provided valuable samples and assisted with analysis for this research, this includes Paul Sunnucks (Monash University), Katherine Harrison (La Trobe University), Sarah Maclagan (Deakin University), Terry Coates (Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria), and The Victorian Government Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) for the Melbourne region and Glenelg; Andy Murray (DELWP) for the East Gippsland region; Steve Cooper (South Australian Museum) and You Li (Northwest Minzu University) for the Mt. Lofty region; and the Australian Museum for historic samples from the Eden and Mount Gambier regions. Chris MacGregor and other members of the Lindenmayer Long Term Ecology team assisted with the translocation and monitoring.

Funding

This research received funding from the Australian Government’s National Environmental Science Program through the Threatened Species Recovery Hub.

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SCB and NMR conceptualised the study; SCB, CR and NMR designed the study and interpreted results; CR and SCB analysed the data; NMR and CR wrote the manuscript; DBL and JP assisted with interpreting results and editing; All authors gave final approval for publication.

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Correspondence to Natasha M. Robinson.

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Research was approved by the Australian National University Animal Experimentation Ethics Committee (Protocol No. A2015/26) and was undertaken according to the Australian Code of Practice for the Care and Use of Animals for Scientific Purposes.

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This is not applicable to our study. Our research did not require human ethics approval, including consent to participate and publish, as the study did not involve human participation.

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Robinson, N.M., Rhoades, C., Pierson, J. et al. Prioritising source populations for supplementing genetic diversity of reintroduced southern brown bandicoots Isoodon obesulus obesulus. Conserv Genet 22, 341–353 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10592-021-01341-6

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Keywords

  • Reintroduction
  • Conservation translocation
  • Supplementation
  • Genetic restoration
  • Augmentation