Demographic and genetic monitoring of the translocated brown bear (Ursus arctos) population in the Italian Alps


De Barba, Marta.. (2009). Demographic and genetic monitoring of the translocated brown bear (Ursus arctos) population in the Italian Alps. Theses and Dissertations Collection, University of Idaho Library Digital Collections.

Demographic and genetic monitoring of the translocated brown bear (Ursus arctos) population in the Italian Alps
De Barba, Marta.
Brown bear--Monitoring--Italy--Parco naturale Adamello-Brenta Brown bear--Reintroduction--Italy--Parco naturale Adamello-Brenta
Natural Resources
The current brown bear population in Northern Italy was established by translocation of nine bears between 1999 and 2002. The bears were released into Parco Naturale Adamello Brenta (PNAB) in the Trento province of northern Italy, where a few relict bears of the former Alpine bear population survived. Alter initial radiomonitoring, noninvasive genetic sampling (NGS) was proposed as the preferred monitoring method for obtaining demographic, spatial and genetic information, to assess reproductive success and population trends, and to identify species and individuals responsible for damages. The objectives of my thesis research are to (1) assess the feasibility of NGS for the small brown bear population in the Italian Alps and determine the most effective and efficient monitoring protocol for obtaining demographic, reproductive, genetic and spatial information and to identify individuals responsible for damages; (2) establish a laboratory protocol for accurately and cost-effectively genotyping samples; (3) track population expansion and changes in the genetic composition since the translocation; and (4) evaluate population viability to guide management and conservation efforts for the bear population.;During a pilot study conducted in 2003-2004, we determined that the NGS approach is feasible for the bears in the Italian Alps as 1170 samples were collected over two years and the number of individuals identified provided an accurate minimum count of bears in the area. The optimal sampling strategy was the combined application of hair trapping and opportunistic sampling; in fact the pooled data set efficiently provided the identification of the highest number of bears and their movements, reproduction, as well as important information for human conflict resolution. Our laboratory protocol allowed efficient and accurate genotyping of individuals from hair and faeces using a reference genotype approach. By implementing the field and laboratory methods in following years, NGS revealed that the population increased from 9 founders to at least 26 individuals in 2008 that spread outside the original translocation area. However, the multi-year genetic monitoring data also showed that mortality rates were elevated, immigration did not occur, genetic variation declined, relatedness increased, inbreeding occurred, and the effective population size was extremely small. The population viability analysis indicated that increased mortality rates and inbreeding depression could be major threats for future persistence. Extinction risk would be reduced and more genetic diversity would be retained over the short-medium term by prompt efforts to reduce human-caused mortality and by augmenting the population with at least three bears over the next 10 years.;This study provides a model for other reintroduction programs by demonstrating how genetic monitoring can be implemented to uncover aspects of the demography, ecology and genetics of small and reintroduced populations that will advance our understanding of the processes and factors influencing their viability and evolution. We also provide an example of how NGS monitoring can be more sustainably implemented by integrating the sampling into the standard activities of field personnel.
Thesis (Ph. D., Natural Resources)--University of Idaho, May 2009.
Major Professor:
Lisette P. Waits.
Defense Date:
May 2009.
Format Original:
xxii, 134 leaves :ill., maps ;29 cm.

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