One of the main problems of the Iberian lynx is the low genetic diversity. Besides being the lynx species with most reduced distribution range, the dramatic decline in their populations during the twentieth century has led to a significant loss of genetic diversity within the species. Genetic diversity is of vital importance in the conservation of species, since the lower the populations most vulnerable to natural hazards. Besides this, low population size leads to increased inbreeding, which is a predisposing factor to the occurrence of physical abnormalities, loss of immune competence and other conditions that cause a significant negative impact on population dynamics. Already in the early twenty-first century, it is estimated that the breeding population of lynx did not exceed 70 copies, of which about 15 made ??up the population of Doñana. Genetic analysis showed that genetic variability is retained in the species was very low, especially in the Doñana population, where the effects of inbreeding were beginning to emerge: in a decade was observed an apparent decrease in immunocompetence (translated by increased susceptibility to infectious diseases) and an apparent decrease in the prolificity.
Both minimizing loss of genetic diversity and reducing inbreeding are important tools in the conservation of the Iberian lynx. Therefore, given the critical genetic situation of the Doñana-Aljarafe Iberian lynx population, the LIFE-lince project (LIFE06 NAT/E/209) included the implementation of a genetic reinforcement of the population by transferring individuals from Sierra Morena. Although the population is numerically growing through conservation measures of the project (see Census 2010), genetic diversity can only be increased by including in the population individuals coming from the other one: Sierra Morena (which retains greater diversity than the first). Therefore, this project included the release of four Iberian lynxes from Sierra Morena in the Doñana-Aljarafe population.
|Iberian lynx with thin spots preserved in El Acebrón (Doñana)
|The Doñana-Aljarafe lynx population has remained isolated for decades. In addition, the effectives that the population has counted on from the 60's of the Twentieth Century have never exceeded 60 individuals (see Valverde 1963; Palomares 1991; Garrote 2011). Both the small population size and the isolation have resulted in a loss of variability by genetic drift. This loss is evident in physical characteristics, such as the thick weed spotted hold by the lynx in Doñana-Aljarafe. Until the 50's of the Twentieth Century lynxes displaying different coat patterns could be found in Doñana (see Beltrán 1993), but thereafter there was a random fixation of the large dotted pelage (the few specimens that survived the years in Doñana 50 would be in heavy pot, and the population had to be put back from these few examples). At the beginning of this LIFE project, in 2006, only about 35-40 lived in Doñana-Aljarafe and displayed a high degree of inbreeding. In addition, an epidemic of feline leukemia virus seriously threatened the lynx population in Doñana National Park during the summer of 2007. Given this scenario, the project opted decisively strengthening the genetic reinforcement.
The main objective of the genetic reinforcement in Doñana-Aljarafe is to increase genetic diversity and reduce inbreeding in order to avoid their adverse effects on the population. Although it was also thought as a numeric reinforcement as well (given the few individuals left in Doñana’s population; see Palomares 2006), from 2006 on, the population of Doñana-Aljarafe began a recovery that made ??this handling unnecessary from the demographic point of view. However, the need to genetically enhance the core was greater than ever (and that inbreeding was increasing and associated problems seemed to be beginning to gain importance.)
The work of implementing, tracking and evaluating the remediation and reintroduction will be supervised and guided by a committee of experts on the subject, the REINTRODUCTION AND REINFORCEMENT COMMITTEE.
Construction of the first soft-release enclosure used in the genetic reinforcement.
The genetic enhancement of Doñana Aljarafe force aims to raise the population's genetic diversity. While working in physically bringing the nuclei of Sierra Morena to Doñana, individuals are added to enrich the genetic variability of the nucleus most affected by inbreeding. To monitor the process of adaptation of the copies and knowledge of the interactions with the resident population of lynx, will, among other tools, a camera surveillance system in real time. This link allows technicians to observe the monitoring of the process, are seen through the surveillance system in the soft release enclosure. To maximize the effectiveness of this system, you need support through continuous position of translocated and residents who can direct the camera to where the copies are found, work done by technicians LIFE.