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Empirical tests for ecological exchangeability

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 August 2005

Russell B. Rader
Affiliation:
Department of Integrative Biology, Brigham Young University, 401 Widtsoe, Provo, Utah 84602-5181, USA
Mark C. Belk
Affiliation:
Department of Integrative Biology, Brigham Young University, 401 Widtsoe, Provo, Utah 84602-5181, USA
Dennis K. Shiozawa
Affiliation:
Department of Integrative Biology, Brigham Young University, 401 Widtsoe, Provo, Utah 84602-5181, USA
Keith A. Crandall
Affiliation:
Department of Integrative Biology, Brigham Young University, 401 Widtsoe, Provo, Utah 84602-5181, USA
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Abstract

The concept of ecological exchangeability, together with genetic exchangeability, is central to both the Cohesion Species Concept as well as to some definitions of Evolutionarily Significant Units. While there are well-established criteria for measuring genetic exchangeability, the concept of ecological exchangeability has generated considerable confusion. We describe a procedure that uses the complementary strengths, while recognising the limitations, of both molecular genetic data and ecological experiments to determine the ecological exchangeability of local populations within a species. This is the first synthesis of a combined approach (experiments and genetics) and the first explicit discussion of testing ecological exchangeability. Although it would be ideal to find functional genes that interact to influence quantitative traits resulting in ecological differences (e.g. growth, size, fecundity), we suggest that our current knowledge of functional markers is too limited for most species to use them to differentiate adaptively different local populations. Thus, we argue that ecological experiments using whole organisms combined with neutral markers that indicate evolutionary divergence, provide the strongest case for detecting adaptive differences among local populations. Both genetic divergence and ecological experiments provide the best information for infering ecological exchangeability. This procedure can be used to decide which local populations should be preserved to maintain intraspecific variation and to determine which populations would enhance captive-breeding programs, augment endangered local populations and could best be used to re-introduce native species into historically occupied areas.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
2005 The Zoological Society of London

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