LIFE LYNXCONNECT meets in Extremadura under Action A6
June 24, 2022
The LYNXCONNECT Project meets in Extremadura for a dynamic workshop on the guidelines for the integrated management of Iberian lynx populations with genetic criteria in wild populations, within the framework of Action A6 of the project.
Project technicians from the different populations on the peninsula met on Tuesday in the Matachel Valley for a series of theoretical and practical workshops on lynx scat sampling, with the aim of studying genetic diversity in wild Iberian lynx populations. The meeting was attended by technicians from Andalusia, Castilla La Mancha, Extremadura, Fotex, AREX, WWF, Fundación CBD-Hábitat and Natural Environment Agents.
Small and isolated Iberian lynx populations suffer a rapid genetic deterioration (loss of diversity, accumulation of inbreeding and deleterious alleles) whose demographic effects can compromise their viability in the medium and long term. This can be minimised by appropriate genetic management, which requires knowledge of the genetic composition of the population.
The genetic deterioration of the Iberian lynx limits its reproduction and survival rates. Therefore, it is a priority to manage the global population with genetic criteria that ensure the genetic potential of the captive population and avoid genetic deterioration of the wild population through genetic linkage between all nuclei (increasing the viability of the species). To achieve this, guidelines for the integrated management of the species based on genetic criteria must be established.
After several preparatory meetings on the subject, and rigorous prior sampling and analysis under controlled conditions on the treatment of these samples, the time has come to carry out the first genetic sampling in lynx latrines in the wild. Given that Extremadura is a key intermediate point between populations at national level, and that the Matachel valley is home to one of the main lynx populations in Extremadura, it was postulated from the outset as the ideal “laboratory” for this workshop.
After a brief lecture with theoretical indications on sample collection, accompanied by a cloud-based data storage system, the participants proceeded to take samples in the field in different groups, in order to familiarise themselves with the systematics of the operations.
The genetic inventory of individuals, the genealogy and demographic estimates of each nucleus, as well as the evaluation of the project’s contribution to the viability of the species, will determine the future genetic management and the medium-term viability of the species. In terms of genetics
Although monitoring based on scat genotyping has been used in other carnivores, its application is pioneering at the level of the Iberian lynx, and would provide a model applicable to other species.
Thanks to this, the integrated genetic management of the species will be established according to the genetic population status at any given time with a non-invasive methodology (droppings and hairs) and with a genetic basis for monitoring the species.
It will make it possible to determine the management of the captive population (selection of founders, allocation of parents, prioritisation of breeders, optimisation of pairings and selection of individuals to be released) and the wild population (optimal distribution of specimens between areas, selection of the individuals necessary for reintroductions and/or genetic reinforcement, assessment of the need to create new reintroduction nuclei, etc.).
Genetic management will be based on the minimisation of average relatedness based on the combination of molecular and genealogical information.
This will be achieved through the design of genetic-based methodology for non-invasive tracking and monitoring: sampling protocols, laboratory analysis and data analysis.
In addition, this same genetic methodology will make it possible to identify carcasses in an advanced state of decomposition, assess damage to livestock and cases of poaching, detect lethal interactions of lynx with other carnivores and select specimens to be transferred to zoos in a future EEP (European Endangered Species Programme).