Balard, Alice, Baltazar‐Soares, Miguel, Eizaguirre, Christophe and Heckwolf, Melanie J. ORCID: (2024) An epigenetic toolbox for conservation biologists. Evolutionary Applications, 17 (6). DOI

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Ongoing climatic shifts and increasing anthropogenic pressures demand an efficient delineation of conservation units and accurate predictions of populations' resilience and adaptive potential. Molecular tools involving DNA sequencing are nowadays routinely used for these purposes. Yet, most of the existing tools focusing on sequence-level information have shortcomings in detecting signals of short-term ecological relevance. Epigenetic modifications carry valuable information to better link individuals, populations, and species to their environment. Here, we discuss a series of epigenetic monitoring tools that can be directly applied to various conservation contexts, complementing already existing molecular monitoring frameworks. Focusing on DNA sequence-based methods (e.g. DNA methylation, for which the applications are readily available), we demonstrate how (a) the identification of epi-biomarkers associated with age or infection can facilitate the determination of an individual's health status in wild populations; (b) whole epigenome analyses can identify signatures of selection linked to environmental conditions and facilitate estimating the adaptive potential of populations; and (c) epi-eDNA (epigenetic environmental DNA), an epigenetic-based conservation tool, presents a non-invasive sampling method to monitor biological information beyond the mere presence of individuals. Overall, our framework refines conservation strategies, ensuring a comprehensive understanding of species' adaptive potential and persistence on ecologically relevant timescales.

Document Type: Article
Programme Area: PA1
Research affiliation: Ecology > Fish Ecology and Evolution
Refereed: Yes
Open Access Journal?: Yes
ISSN: 1752-4571
Date Deposited: 05 Jun 2024 17:17
Last Modified: 05 Jun 2024 17:17

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