Why is Genetic Diversity Important?

Have you ever thought about genetic diversity or why it’s important? It may sound like a daunting topic, but it’s quite simple really.

In a nutshell, genetic diversity is the variation within a population’s gene pool. Maintaining rich genetic diversity is crucial for the survival and adaptability of any species. In the wild world, natural selection acts upon certain traits, like color patterns or body type, either selecting for or against them. Ample genetic variation helps a species to survive changes in its environment. Without enough variation, a species can become endangered, or at risk of extinction.

As suitable habitat becomes increasingly fragmented by urbanization and development, wildlife populations become more and more isolated from one another. This can lead to the risk of inbreeding and decreased genetic diversity. How do you think that this might affect wildlife?

In Nevada, wildlife crossing structures have been and are being built to try to remedy this problem. These structures help reconnect habitat “islands” so that otherwise isolated populations can once again mingle, enriching the gene pool.

Denise Peterson

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