Jen Walsh et al. on the conservation genetics of sparrows

Postdoc Jen Walsh and collaborators recently published a paper in Conservation Genetics investigating the temporal stability of the Saltmarsh-Nelson’s sparrow hybrid zone. By comparing genetic, morphological, and survey data from the same sites from two time periods (1998 and 2013), this study finds that Nelson’s Sparrows are moving further south resulting in a higher proportion of F1 hybrids at the center of the zone and increased introgression. These findings are combined with a synthesis of current knowledge on hybridization between Saltmarsh and Nelson’s sparrows and results are placed within a policy framework in order to evaluate management options for hybrids. The authors conclude that despite increasing rates of introgression, hybridization poses a substantially lesser threat to parental populations than the imminent consequences of habitat degradation and sea-level rise, and thus, hybrid conservation is warranted at this time.

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