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Estimating the effective population size of conserved populations

Conservation Biology 8(1): 175-184
Estimating the effective population size of conserved populations
Accurate estimation of effective population size is important in attempts to conserve small populations of animals or plants. We review the genetic and ecological methods that have been used to estimate effective population size in the past and suggest that, while genetic methods may often be appropriate for the estimation of N-e and its monitoring, ecological methods have the advantage of providing data that can help predict the effect of a changed environment on N-e. Estimation of N-e is particularly complex in populations with overlapping generations, and we summarize previous empirical estimates of N-e that used ecological methods in such populations. Since it is often difficult to assess what parameters and assumptions have been used in previous calculation we suggest a method that provides a good estimate of N-e, makes clear what assumptions are involved, and yet requires a minimum of information. The method is used to analyze data from 14 studies. In 36% (5) of these studies, our estimate is in excellent agreement with the original, and yet we use significantly less information; in 21% (3) the original estimate is markedly lower, in 43% (6) it is markedly higher. Reasons for the discrepancies are suggested. Two of the underestimates involve a failure in the original to account for a long maturation time, and four of the overestimates involve problems in the original with the correction for overlapping generations.

Accession: 002373010

DOI: 10.1046/j.1523-1739.1994.08010175.x

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