Demographic stability metrics for conservation prioritization of isolated populations


Systems of geographically isolated habitat patches house species that occur naturally as small, disjunct populations. Many of these species are of conservation concern, particularly under the interacting influences of isolation and rapid global change. One potential conservation strategy is to prioritize the populations most likely to persist through change and act as sources for future recolonization of less stable localities. We propose an approach to classify long-term population stability (and, presumably, future persistence potential) with composite demographic metrics derived from standard population-genetic data. Stability metrics can be related to simple habitat measures for a straightforward method of classifying localities to inform conservation management. We tested these ideas in a system of isolated desert headwater streams with mitochondrial sequence data from 16 populations of a flightless aquatic insect. Populations exhibited a wide range of stability scores, which were significantly predicted by dry-season aquatic habitat size. This preliminary test suggests strong potential for our proposed method of classifying isolated populations according to persistence potential. The approach is complementary to existing methods for prioritizing local habitats according to diversity patterns and should be tested further in other systems and with additional loci to inform composite demographic stability scores. © 2009 Society for Conservation Biology.

Document Type




Abedus herberti, Climate change, Demographic stability, Evolutionary process, Habitat stability, Headwater streams, Isolation, Population genetics

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Journal Title

Conservation Biology