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Successful reintroduction of an endangered veteran tree specialist: conservation and genetics of the Great Capricorn beetle (Cerambyx cerdo)

ABSTRACT

Habitat fragmentation is one of the main threats to biodiversity. Reintroductions or translocations may mitigate its effects by allowing species with limited dispersal ability to exploit otherwise inaccessible habitat patches. Despite the fact that reintroductions are among the most effective conservation measures, they are rarely used for invertebrates. In this study we investigate the potential of reintroductions as a conservation measure for beetles, and present the first genetic results for an endangered veteran tree specialist. After translocation of 10 adults in 1987, a population of the Great Capricorn beetle reappeared in Hluboká nad Vltavou (Czech Republic) in 1990s. Using population genetic analyses of 79 individuals based on nine microsatellite loci and 82 individuals based on the mitochondrial COI gene we assessed the origin of this population, and compared its genetic variation, population structure and demography to the alleged source population (southern Moravia) and to the closest autochthonous population (Třeboňsko). Although the reintroduced and the closest autochthonous populations are geographically close (24 km), their mutual genetic distance was much higher than that between each of them and the geographically distant (>150 km) potential source population in southern Moravia. The genetic diversity of the reintroduced population was the lowest from the three studied populations and represented a subset of the alleged source population suggesting its establishment due to a translocation from southern Moravia. Despite the lower genetic variation at the reintroduced site, our results suggest that reintroductions could serve as a highly effective measure in biodiversity conservation and in some cases it may be the only chance to prevent extirpation of many endangered populations.