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While there is a clear need for timely action in conservation management, effective nature conservation is often hindered by insufficient financial resources. One problem is that studies on the effectiveness of taken conservation actions are difficult to carry out or are cost-intensive. Recently, the increased use of genetic methods in the identification of species or for the evaluation of connectivity or fragmentation of populations has shown that conservation genetics could support conservation management in answering many questions of practical relevance. However, genetic methods are still rarely used by conservation professionals.
Here, a conservation genetics tool kit, which offers ready-to-use workflows is presented. These workflows allow for the routine use of genetic methods in nature conservation. The main parts of the tool kit are workflows optimized for labour and costs. They give easy-to-read and illustrated guidance regarding sample design, sampling of genetic material, laboratory work, standardized statistical analyses, presentation of useroriented results and the interpretation of the results in conservation practice (federal and cantonal authorities, private consultancies, NGOs). The conservation genetics tool kit’s clear focusing on important and relevant questions of conservation practice ensures the accessibility of the potential of genetic methods in nature conservation and fosters the increased use of conservation genetics in conservation management.
Two different workflows for the routine and standardized use of genetic methods in nature conservation were established (for up-to-date information see www.naturschutzgenetik. ch). First, a genetic tool for the identification of pond-breeding amphibians in Switzerland based on environmental DNA (eDNA) from water samples was set up. With this method, also amphibian species that are difficult to detect with traditional field methods (e.g. crested newt, Triturus cristatus, smooth newt, Lissotriton vulgaris) or cannot be morphologically determined in the field (e.g. invasive water frogs, Pelophylax sp.) can be identified. A second workflow enables the study of the isolation or connectivity of populations or habitats using genetic methods (microsatellites). Currently, genetic methods are the only ones which allow – with a reasonable effort – an evaluation of the level of connectivity at the landscape scale for (almost) all groups of organisms.
These two workflows are set up to be easily transferable to other target species and habitats in conservation management. The scope of the conservation genetics tool kit can thus easily be enlarged. Due to the interest of stakeholders, the eDNA workflow is currently applied to and optimized for other organismic groups (e. g. dragonflies and damselflies). The conservation genetics tool kit facilitates a more routine use of conservation genetics in conservation practice and its manifold applications in Switzerland.