Publications by authors named "Claudio Groff"

4 Publications

  • Page 1 of 1

Survival and divergence in a small group: The extraordinary genomic history of the endangered Apennine brown bear stragglers.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2017 11 24;114(45):E9589-E9597. Epub 2017 Oct 24.

Department of Life Sciences and Biotechnology, University of Ferrara, 44121 Ferrara, Italy;

About 100 km east of Rome, in the central Apennine Mountains, a critically endangered population of ∼50 brown bears live in complete isolation. Mating outside this population is prevented by several 100 km of bear-free territories. We exploited this natural experiment to better understand the gene and genomic consequences of surviving at extremely small population size. We found that brown bear populations in Europe lost connectivity since Neolithic times, when farming communities expanded and forest burning was used for land clearance. In central Italy, this resulted in a 40-fold population decline. The overall genomic impact of this decline included the complete loss of variation in the mitochondrial genome and along long stretches of the nuclear genome. Several private and deleterious amino acid changes were fixed by random drift; predicted effects include energy deficit, muscle weakness, anomalies in cranial and skeletal development, and reduced aggressiveness. Despite this extreme loss of diversity, Apennine bear genomes show nonrandom peaks of high variation, possibly maintained by balancing selection, at genomic regions significantly enriched for genes associated with immune and olfactory systems. Challenging the paradigm of increased extinction risk in small populations, we suggest that random fixation of deleterious alleles () can be an important driver of divergence in isolation, () can be tolerated when balancing selection prevents random loss of variation at important genes, and () is followed by or results directly in favorable behavioral changes.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1707279114DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5692547PMC
November 2017

Data integration for inference about spatial processes: A model-based approach to test and account for data inconsistency.

PLoS One 2017 3;12(10):e0185588. Epub 2017 Oct 3.

Department of Environmental Conservation, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA, 01003, United States of America.

Recently-developed methods that integrate multiple data sources arising from the same ecological processes have typically utilized structured data from well-defined sampling protocols (e.g., capture-recapture and telemetry). Despite this new methodological focus, the value of opportunistic data for improving inference about spatial ecological processes is unclear and, perhaps more importantly, no procedures are available to formally test whether parameter estimates are consistent across data sources and whether they are suitable for integration. Using data collected on the reintroduced brown bear population in the Italian Alps, a population of conservation importance, we combined data from three sources: traditional spatial capture-recapture data, telemetry data, and opportunistic data. We developed a fully integrated spatial capture-recapture (SCR) model that included a model-based test for data consistency to first compare model estimates using different combinations of data, and then, by acknowledging data-type differences, evaluate parameter consistency. We demonstrate that opportunistic data lend itself naturally to integration within the SCR framework and highlight the value of opportunistic data for improving inference about space use and population size. This is particularly relevant in studies of rare or elusive species, where the number of spatial encounters is usually small and where additional observations are of high value. In addition, our results highlight the importance of testing and accounting for inconsistencies in spatial information from structured and unstructured data so as to avoid the risk of spurious or averaged estimates of space use and consequently, of population size. Our work supports the use of a single modeling framework to combine spatially-referenced data while also accounting for parameter consistency.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0185588PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5626469PMC
October 2017

Evaluating mortality rates with a novel integrated framework for nonmonogamous species.

Conserv Biol 2016 12 20;30(6):1307-1319. Epub 2016 Aug 20.

Vertebrate Zoology Section, MUSE - Museo delle Scienze, Corso del Lavoro e della Scienza 3, 38122, Trento, Italy.

The conservation of wildlife requires management based on quantitative evidence, and especially for large carnivores, unraveling cause-specific mortalities and understanding their impact on population dynamics is crucial. Acquiring this knowledge is challenging because it is difficult to obtain robust long-term data sets on endangered populations and, usually, data are collected through diverse sampling strategies. Integrated population models (IPMs) offer a way to integrate data generated through different processes. However, IPMs are female-based models that cannot account for mate availability, and this feature limits their applicability to monogamous species only. We extended classical IPMs to a two-sex framework that allows investigation of population dynamics and quantification of cause-specific mortality rates in nonmonogamous species. We illustrated our approach by simultaneously modeling different types of data from a reintroduced, unhunted brown bear (Ursus arctos) population living in an area with a dense human population. In a population mainly driven by adult survival, we estimated that on average 11% of cubs and 61% of adults died from human-related causes. Although the population is currently not at risk, adult survival and thus population dynamics are driven by anthropogenic mortality. Given the recent increase of human-bear conflicts in the area, removal of individuals for management purposes and through poaching may increase, reversing the positive population growth rate. Our approach can be generalized to other species affected by cause-specific mortality and will be useful to inform conservation decisions for other nonmonogamous species, such as most large carnivores, for which data are scarce and diverse and thus data integration is highly desirable.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/cobi.12736DOI Listing
December 2016

Recovery of large carnivores in Europe's modern human-dominated landscapes.

Science 2014 Dec;346(6216):1517-9

University of Ljubljana, Biotechnical Faculty, Jamnikarjeva 101, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia.

The conservation of large carnivores is a formidable challenge for biodiversity conservation. Using a data set on the past and current status of brown bears (Ursus arctos), Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx), gray wolves (Canis lupus), and wolverines (Gulo gulo) in European countries, we show that roughly one-third of mainland Europe hosts at least one large carnivore species, with stable or increasing abundance in most cases in 21st-century records. The reasons for this overall conservation success include protective legislation, supportive public opinion, and a variety of practices making coexistence between large carnivores and people possible. The European situation reveals that large carnivores and people can share the same landscape.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.1257553DOI Listing
December 2014
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