Species Conservation describes the process of undertaking preservation of a particular species of animal or plant which may be under threat of extinction or destruction. Species conservation is focused only on the individual species identified and not the other organisms within its habitat. Such species are usually identified through academic studies, alarm by individual stakeholders, environmental activists and nature lovers and sometimes the sense of loss that comes when there is a drastic change in the ecosystem.
These specific conservation efforts require a lot of resources and funding which the government may not be able to provide since individual species cannot take precedence over overall conservation programs. Apart from funding constraints, in the 1980s species conservation also faced a paradigm shift from focusing on environmental issues to the interrelationship between development and conservation. Policy development shifted to recognizing the relationship between poverty eradication, economical development and environmental issues. Many NGOs also shifted from tackling direct biodiversity issues to addressing factors responsible for these threats such as globalization and trade.
In recent times, climatic change has been given priority in conservation efforts since it is seen as a bigger threat to humanity, this has drastically reduced the amount of funds available for individual species conservation efforts. The few funds available are being used to lobby for more attention on species instead of the critical hands-on conservation operations.
Extinction is the process by which a species is wiped out of existence usually because of changes in the environment for which they were not able to adapt to. In most cases extinctions are reactions to serious environmental challenges that are highly unpredictable and that we cannot entirely blame a species for failing to adapt to.
In examining factors that lead to the extinction of a species, genetics is also considered because it determines such aspects as mutational weaknesses and predisposition to disease. Genetic problems that that are addressed include loss of genetic variability and inbreeding depression. Loss of variability is the reduction of differences in genetic characteristics while inbreeding depression describes reduced fertility and ability to survive due to breeding among related individuals.
Genetic diversity enables individuals to adapt to changing environments. Species with more variation are more likely to have individuals in a population that will possess variations of alleles suitable for the environment. These are more likely to survive producing offspring bearing the allele. The population will survive for more generations because of the success of these individuals.
Inbreeding among closely related individuals increases the chance of weak, deformed or unviable offspring due to the propagation of deleterious alleles previously hidden within the related individuals who are more likely to have the deleterious alleles. However this problem is easily solved when the breeding population is increased.
A thorough knowledge of conservation genetics enables researchers and conservationists to understand the unseen but equally significant impact that genetics pose to species and their survival in the environment. Changes in the environment may require slight genetic changes in species to allow them to adapt physically to the environment. Variety within a species is also critical to ensure that only the strong viable offspring are propagated.