Extinction risk is increasing for a range of species due to a variety of threats, including disease. Emerging infectious diseases can cause severe declines in wild animal populations, increasing population fragmentation and reducing gene flow. Small, isolated, host populations may lose adaptive potential and become more susceptible to extinction due to other threats. Management of the genetic consequences of disease-induced population decline is often necessary. Whilst disease threats need to be addressed, they can be difficult to mitigate. Actions implemented to conserve the Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harrisii
), which has suffered decline to the deadly devil facial tumour disease (DFTD), exemplify how genetic management can be used to reduce extinction risk in populations threatened by disease. Supplementation is an emerging conservation technique that may benefit populations threatened by disease by enabling gene flow and conserving their adaptive potential through genetic restoration. Other candidate species may benefit from genetic management via supplementation but concerns regarding outbreeding depression may prevent widespread incorporation of this technique into wildlife disease management. However, existing knowledge can be used to identify populations that would benefit from supplementation where risk of outbreeding depression is low. For populations threatened by disease and, in situations where disease eradication is not an option, wildlife managers should consider genetic management to buffer the host species against inbreeding and loss of genetic diversity.
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