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Conservation Genetic Resources for Effective Species Survival

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The importance of genetic diversity

Genetic biodiversity is one of the three essential elements of living diversity yet it is poorly recognised at policy-level. EU funding is helping to redress the balance by developing dissemination tools for decision makers and conservation managers.

Climate Change and Environment icon Climate Change and Environment

A focused initiative has been applied to raise the profile of genetic diversity in line with the two other components of living diversity — species and ecosystems. To achieve this, the 'Conservation genetic resources for effective species survival' (CONGRESS) project has successfully facilitated access to a huge scientific knowledge base. The major achievement of the CONGRESS consortium was the establishment of the comprehensive web portal with an attractive and user-friendly interface. The website includes a database of the genetics of threatened European wild species and a sample planning tool to assess the power of experimental design. A decision-making tool helps formulate genetic approaches to a management problem. Educational downloads include a series of 'How to' leaflets and a 'Knowledge pack' to answer management problems. The sample planning tool, renamed Sample Planning Optimisation Tool for Conservation and Population Genetics (SPOTG), is in operation and has featured in two high-profile ecology journals. Information on the 'Decision-making Tool' for end users includes explanatory text and useful links as well as connections back to the relevant management topics. The databases for the web portal feature 346 chosen species. This includes key members of large carnivores, birds including Capercaillie (an umbrella species for old growth forest, forest trees and vascular plants). Needless to say, the publications database was also a major undertaking. To measure the impact of the CONGRESS project, the user stats are telling. The web page has received over 6 000 visits since inception and the number of registered community members has risen to almost 170. SPOTG has been used 1 650 times and over 1 000 results have been viewed. It has been used in university courses and real scenarios with the black stork and large cats. Despite its complexity, 1 300 users have successfully completed the ‘Decision Making Tool’ process to formulate genetic approaches to diversity management problems. Recently, the CONGRESS team was invited to showcase the website for interested conservationists in South Africa, where a similar initiative will now be taken. CONGRESS deliverables, in particular SPOTG, stand to play a major role in biodiversity conservation planning. Moreover, implementation of genetic studies with statistical power will avoid the expense of unnecessary studies.

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