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  • Print publication year: 2011
  • Online publication date: April 2011

2 - Status and distribution patterns of European ungulates: genetics, population history and conservation

Summary

Introduction

Within Europe as a whole, the distributional range, population size and the status of many species has been greatly influenced by human activity – not simply through the negative influences of humans on land-use patterns and in overexploitation, but also through active attempts to ‘restore’ and ‘augment’ species distributions.

A number of indigenous subspecies have been (or may be currently) threatened whether due to habitat loss, overexploitation or simply by lack of positive management to protect them. In addition, the genetic integrity of such endangered taxa may be compromised by the introduction to those populations of animals of different genetic background in misguided, although well-intentioned, attempts to bolster dwindling populations. Even within well-established populations apparently not under threat, introduction of animals of different genetic types may have been quite commonplace (usually in an attempt to try and improve the ‘trophy quality’ of antlers) – and thus the special genetic status of particular local populations has been greatly altered by the introgression of alien genes. Reintroduction of species to local areas from which they had previously become extinct has also often been undertaken without due regard to the genetic provenance of those individuals released, thus causing other discontinuities in genetic distributions.

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