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Keywords:

  • conservation genomics;
  • gene flow;
  • genome scan;
  • local adaptation

Genetic variation supplies the raw material for adaptation, evolution and survival of populations and has therefore been a key focus of conservation biology ever since its foundation (Soulé 1985). In previous decades, the neutral component of genetic diversity (generated by mutation and shaped by drift) has been the subject of intense scientific research, fuelled by the increasing availability of molecular markers. On the other hand, the adaptive component of genetic diversity, which is shaped by the action of natural selection, has long remained elusive and difficult to assess, especially at small spatial or temporal scales (Ouborg et al. 2010). Fortunately, new technological and methodological developments now make it possible to identify loci in the genome that are influenced by selection, and thus to get a more complete view of genetic diversity. One article featured in this issue of Molecular Ecology is a good example of this recent breakthrough. Richter-Boix et al. (2011) examined a network of moor frog populations breeding in contrasting habitats in order to understand how landscape features influence patterns of genetic variation. They combined information from both neutral markers and loci putatively under selection to quantify the relative roles of selection and isolation in the evolution of fine-scale local adaptations in these populations. This study nicely illustrates how data on polymorphisms of neutral and adaptive loci can now be judiciously synthesized to help identify the best strategies for preserving adaptive variation, and more generally to enlighten conservation and population-management plans.