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Assessing the contribution of breeds to genetic diversity in conservation schemes

  • 1Email author,
  • 2,
  • 2 and
  • 3
Genetics Selection Evolution200234:613

  • Received: 27 March 2001
  • Accepted: 16 May 2002
  • Published:


The quantitative assessment of genetic diversity within and between populations is important for decision making in genetic conservation plans. In this paper we define the genetic diversity of a set of populations, S, as the maximum genetic variance that can be obtained in a random mating population that is bred from the set of populations S. First we calculated the relative contribution of populations to a core set of populations in which the overlap of genetic diversity was minimised. This implies that the mean kinship in the core set should be minimal. The above definition of diversity differs from Weitzman diversity in that it attempts to conserve the founder population (and thus minimises the loss of alleles), whereas Weitzman diversity favours the conservation of many inbred lines. The former is preferred in species where inbred lines suffer from inbreeding depression. The application of the method is illustrated by an example involving 45 Dutch poultry breeds. The calculations used were easy to implement and not computer intensive. The method gave a ranking of breeds according to their contributions to genetic diversity. Losses in genetic diversity ranged from 2.1% to 4.5% for different subsets relative to the entire set of breeds, while the loss of founder genome equivalents ranged from 22.9% to 39.3%.


  • conservation
  • genetic diversity
  • gene banks
  • marker estimated kinships
  • poultry

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Authors’ Affiliations

Institute for Animal Breeding and Genetics, 37075 Göttingen, Germany
Animal Breeding and Genetics group, Wageningen Institute for Animal Science, Wageningen University, Box 338, 6700, AH, Wageningen, The Netherlands
Institute for Animal Science and Health, Box 65, 8200, AB, Lelystad, The Netherlands


© INRA, EDP Sciences 2002