The Three Domains of Conservation Genetics: Case Histories from Hawaiian Waters

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The scientific field of conservation biology is dominated by 3 specialties: phylogenetics, ecology, and evolution. Under this triad, phylogenetics is oriented towards the past history of biodiversity, conserving the divergent branches in the tree of life. The ecological component is rooted in the present, maintaining the contemporary life support systems for biodiversity. Evolutionary conservation (as defined here) is concerned with preserving the raw materials for generating future biodiversity. All 3 domains can be documented with genetic case histories in the waters of the Hawaiian Archipelago, an isolated chain of volcanic islands with 2 types of biodiversity: colonists, and new species that arose from colonists. This review demonstrates that 1) phylogenetic studies have identified previously unknown branches in the tree of life that are endemic to Hawaiian waters; 2) population genetic surveys define isolated marine ecosystems as management units, and 3) phylogeographic analyses illustrate the pathways of colonization that can enhance future biodiversity. Conventional molecular markers have advanced all 3 domains in conservation biology over the last 3 decades, and recent advances in genomics are especially valuable for understanding the foundations of future evolutionary diversity.

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