In recent years, our knowledge concerning the neurobiology of choice has increased tremendously. Research in the field of decision making has identified important brain mechanisms by which a representation of the subjective value of an option is built based on previous experience, retrieved and compared to that of other available options in order to make a choice. One body of research in particular has focused on simple value-based choices (e.g., choices between two type of fruits) to study situations very similar to our daily life decisions as consumers. The use of neuroimaging techniques has deepened and refined our knowledge of decision processes. Additionally, computational approaches have helped identifying and describing the mechanisms underlying newly found components of the decisional process, and provides mechanistic explanations for diverse biases that can drive decision makers away from their own preferences or from rational choices. It is now clear that both attentional and affective factors can exert robust effects on an individual’s decisions. And because these factors can be manipulated externally, academic research and theories are of great interest to the marketing industry. This approach is becoming increasingly effective in manipulating consumer behaviour and has the potential to become even more effective in the future. As neuroscientists, we wonder whether relevant institutions should direct their efforts towards raising citizens’ awareness, demanding more transparency on marketing applications and regulate the most pervasive communication techniques use in marketing, in view of their current use and of recent research progress.
Inbreeding depression is of major concern in the management and conservation of endangered species. Inbreeding appears universally to reduce fitness, but its magnitude and specific effects are highly variable because they depend on the genetic constitution of the species or populations and on how these genotypes interact with the environment. Recent natural experiments are consistent with greater inbreeding depression in more stressful environments. In small populations of randomly mating individuals, such as are characteristic of many endangered species, all individuals may suffer from inbreeding depression because of the cumulative effects of genetic drift that decrease the fitness of all individuals in the population. In three recent cases, introductions into populations with low fitness appeared to restore fitness to levels similar to those before the effects of genetic drift. Inbreeding depression may potentially be reduced, or purged, by breeding related individuals. However, the Speke's gazelle example, often cited as a demonstration of reduction of inbreeding depression, appears to be the result of a temporal change in fitness in inbred individuals and not a reduction in inbreeding depression.
Habitat fragmentation commonly causes genetic problems and reduced fitness when populations become small. Stocking small populations with individuals from other populations may enrich genetic variation and alleviate inbreeding, but such artificial gene flow is not commonly used in conservation owing to potential outbreeding depression. We addressed the role of long-term population size, genetic distance between populations and test environment for the performance of two generations of offspring from between-population crosses of the locally rare plant Ranunculus reptans L. Interpopulation outbreeding positively affected an aggregate measure of fitness, and the fitness superiority of interpopulation hybrids was maintained in the second offspring (F2) generation. Small populations benefited more strongly from interpopulation outbreeding. Genetic distance between crossed populations in neutral markers or quantitative characters was not important. These results were consistent under near-natural competition-free and competitive conditions. We conclude that the benefits of interpopulation outbreeding are likely to outweigh potential drawbacks, especially for populations that suffer from inbreeding.
It has been proposed that inbreeding contributes to the decline and eventual extinction of small and isolated populations. There is ample evidence of fitness reduction due to inbreeding (inbreeding depression) in captivity and from a few experimental and observational field studies, but no field studies on natural populations have been conducted to test the proposed effect on extinction. It has been argued that in natural populations the impact of inbreeding depression on population survival will be insignificant in comparison to that of demographic and environmental stochasticity. We have now studied the effect of inbreeding on local extinction in a large metapopulation of the Glanville fritillary butterfly (Melitaea cinxia). We found that extinction risk increased significantly with decreasing heterozygosity, an indication of inbreeding6, even after accounting for the effects of the relevant ecological factors. Larval survival, adult longevity, and egg-hatching rate were found to be adversely affected by inbreeding and appear to be the fitness components underlying the relationship between inbreeding and extinction. To our knowledge, this is the first demonstration of an effect of inbreeding on the extinction of natural populations. Our results are particularly relevant to the increasing number of species with small local populations due to habitat loss and fragmentation.
A fundamental assumption underlying the application of genetics within conservation biology is that inbreeding increases the risk of extinction. However, there is no information on the shape of the relationship, the available evidence has not distinguished genetic and nongenetic effects, and the issue is controversial. Methods were devised to separate genetic and nongenetic causes of extinction in inbred populations, and they were used to analyze data from Drosophila melanogaster, D. virilis and Mus musculus. Inbreeding markedly increased rates of extinction in all cases. All showed a threshold relationship between incremental extinction and inbreeding with low initial extinction, but they showed notably increased extinction beginning at intermediate levels of inbreeding. There was no difference in extinction levels at similar inbreeding coefficients in populations inbred at different rates (full sibling versus double first cousin). Endangered species may give little warning of impending extinction crises due to inbreeding.
Populations of many species are dramatically declining worldwide, but the causal mechanism remains debated among different human-related threats. Coping with this uncertainty is critical to several issues about the conservation and future of biodiversity, but remains challenging due to difficulties associated with the experimental manipulation and/or isolation of the effects of such threats under field conditions. Using controlled microcosm populations, we quantified the individual and combined effects of environmental warming, overexploitation and habitat fragmentation on population persistence. Individually, each of these threats produced similar and significant population declines, which were accelerated to different degrees depending upon particular interactions. The interaction between habitat fragmentation and harvesting generated an additive decline in population size. However, both of these threats reduced population resistance causing synergistic declines in populations also facing environmental warming. Declines in population size were up to 50 times faster when all threats acted together. These results indicate that species may be facing risks of extinction higher than those anticipated from single threat analyses and suggest that all threats should be mitigated simultaneously if current biodiversity declines are to be reversed.
The Late Devonian (Frasnian-Famennian) interval includes one of the most dramatic intervals of biotic turnover in the Phanerozoic. Statistical evaluation of diversity change reveals that the primary cause of biodiversity decline was reduced speciation during the crisis interval, not elevated extinction rates. Although various hypotheses have been proposed to explain extinction increase during the Late Devonian, potential causes for reduced speciation have previously been largely unaddressed. Recent analyses
ocusing on biogeographic and phylogenetic patterns of species in shallow marine ecosystems of Laurentia indicate that a dramatic increase in interbasinal species invasions, facilitated by transgressive pulses, fundamentally affected biodiversity by enabling range expansion of ecological generalists and eliminating vicariance, the primary pathway by which new species typically form. Modern species invasions may result in similar speciation loss, exacerbating the current biodiversity crisis.
The present distribution of salmonid fishes in Wyoming streams was found to be limited to regions where mean July air temperatures did not exceed 22°C. Much of the present salmonid habitat in streams is predicted to be lost if climatic warming occurs. For increases of 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5°C in mean July air temperature, the geographic area of Wyoming containing suitable salmonid habitat would be reduced by 16.2, 29.1, 38.5, 53.3, or 68.0%, respectively. This loss of geographic range would correspond to reductions of 7.5, 13.6, 21.0, 31.4, or 43.3% in the length of streams having suitable salmonid habitat. In the Rocky Mountain region, increases of 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5°C in mean July air temperature would reduce the geographic area containing suitable salmonid habitat by 16.8, 35.6, 49.8, 62.0, or 71.8%, respectively. As warming proceeds, salmonid populations would be forced into increasingly higher elevations and would become fragmented as a suitable habitat for coldwater fish becomes separated from main river channels and restricted to headwater streams. A geographic information system (GIS) proved useful for combining the various databases necessary to assess the potential impact of global warming on salmonid populations.
We conducted an analysis of global forest cover to reveal that 70% of remaining forest is within 1 km of the forest’s edge, subject to the degrading effects of fragmentation. A synthesis of fragmentation experiments spanning multiple biomes and scales, five continents, and 35 years demonstrates that habitat fragmentation reduces biodiversity by 13 to 75% and impairs key ecosystem functions by decreasing biomass and altering nutrient cycles. Effects are greatest in the smallest and most isolated fragments, and they magnify with the passage of time. These findings indicate an urgent need for conservation and restoration measures to improve landscape connectivity, which will reduce extinction rates and help maintain ecosystem services
Many species have fragmented distribution with small isolated populations suffering inbreeding depression and/or reduced ability to evolve. Without gene flow from another population within the species (genetic rescue), these populations are likely to be extirpated. However, there have been only ~ 20 published cases of such outcrossing for conservation purposes, probably a very low proportion of populations that would potentially benefit. As one impediment to genetic rescues is the lack of an overview of the magnitude and consistency of genetic rescue effects in wild species, I carried out a meta-analysis. Outcrossing of inbred populations resulted in beneficial effects in 92.9% of 156 cases screened as having a low risk of outbreeding depression. The median increase in composite fitness (combined fecundity and survival) following outcrossing was 148% in stressful environments and 45% in benign ones. Fitness benefits also increased significantly with maternal ΔF (reduction in inbreeding coefficient due to gene flow) and for naturally outbreeding versus inbreeding species. However, benefits did not differ significantly among invertebrates, vertebrates and plants. Evolutionary potential for fitness characters in inbred populations also benefited from gene flow. There are no scientific impediments to the widespread use of outcrossing to genetically rescue inbred populations of naturally outbreeding species, provided potential crosses have a low risk of outbreeding depression. I provide revised guidelines for the management of genetic rescue attempts.
One of the greatest unmet challenges in conservation biology is the genetic management of fragmented populations of threatened animal and plant species. More than a million small, isolated, population fragments of threatened species are likely suffering inbreeding depression and loss of evolutionary potential, resulting in elevated extinction risks. Although these effects can often be reversed by re-establishing gene flow between population fragments, managers very rarely do this. On the contrary, genetic methods are used mainly to document genetic differentiation among populations, with most studies concluding that genetically differentiated populations should be managed separately, thereby isolating them yet further and dooming many to eventual extinction! Many small population fragments are going extinct principally for genetic reasons. Although the rapidly advancing field of molecular genetics is continually providing new tools to measure the extent of population fragmentation and its genetic consequences, adequate guidance on how to use these data for effective conservation is still lacking.
This accessible, authoritative text is aimed at senior undergraduate and graduate students interested in conservation biology, conservation genetics, and wildlife management. It will also be of particular relevance to conservation practitioners and natural resource managers, as well as a broader academic audience of conservation biologists and evolutionary ecologists.
We conducted an analysis of global forest cover to reveal that 70% of remaining forest is within 1 km of the forest’s edge, subject to the degrading effects of fragmentation. A synthesis of fragmentation experiments spanning multiple biomes and scales, five continents, and 35 years demonstrates that habitat fragmentation reduces biodiversity by 13 to 75% and impairs key ecosystem functions by decreasing biomass and altering nutrient cycles. Effects are greatest in the smallest and most isolated fragments, and they magnify with the passage of time. These findings indicate an urgent need for conservation and restoration measures to improve landscape connectivity, which will reduce extinction rates and help maintain ecosystem services.