Van de Walle Joanie

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Last Name
Van de Walle
First Name
Joanie
ORCID
0000-0002-5137-1851

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Genetic rescue from protected areas is modulated by migration, hunting rate, and timing of harvest

2023-05-12 , Lassis, Roxane , Festa‐Bianchet, Marco , Van de Walle, Joanie , Pelletier, Fanie

In terrestrial and marine ecosystems, migrants from protected areas may buffer the risk of harvest‐induced evolutionary changes in exploited populations that face strong selective harvest pressures. Understanding the mechanisms favoring genetic rescue through migration could help ensure evolutionarily sustainable harvest outside protected areas and conserve genetic diversity inside those areas. We developed a stochastic individual‐based metapopulation model to evaluate the potential for migration from protected areas to mitigate the evolutionary consequences of selective harvest. We parameterized the model with detailed data from individual monitoring of two populations of bighorn sheep subjected to trophy hunting. We tracked horn length through time in a large protected and a trophy‐hunted populations connected through male breeding migrations. We quantified and compared declines in horn length and rescue potential under various combinations of migration rate, hunting rate in hunted areas and temporal overlap in timing of harvest and migrations, which affects the migrants' survival and chances to breed within exploited areas. Our simulations suggest that the effects of size‐selective harvest on male horn length in hunted populations can be dampened or avoided if harvest pressure is low, migration rate is substantial, and migrants leaving protected areas have a low risk of being shot. Intense size‐selective harvest impacts the phenotypic and genetic diversity in horn length, and population structure through changes in proportions of large‐horned males, sex ratio and age structure. When hunting pressure is high and overlaps with male migrations, effects of selective removal also emerge in the protected population, so that instead of a genetic rescue of hunted populations, our model predicts undesirable effects inside protected areas. Our results stress the importance of a landscape approach to management, to promote genetic rescue from protected areas and limit ecological and evolutionary impacts of harvest on both harvested and protected populations.