The identification of management units (MUs) is central to the management of natural populations and is crucial for monitoring the effects of human activity upon species abundance. Here, we propose that the identification of MUs from population genetic data should be based upon the amount of genetic divergence at which populations become demographically independent instead of the current criterion that focuses on rejecting panmixia. MU status should only be assigned when the observed estimate of genetic divergence is significantly greater than a predefined threshold value. We emphasize the need for a demographic interpretation of estimates of genetic divergence given that it is often the dispersal rate of individuals that is the parameter of immediate interest to conservationists rather than the historical amount of gene flow.
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