Research Article

Multi-objective optimization in systematic conservation planning and the representation of genetic variability among populations

Abstract

Biodiversity crises have led scientists to develop strategies for achieving conservation goals. The underlying principle of these strategies lies in systematic conservation planning (SCP), in which there are at least 2 conflicting objectives, making it a good candidate for multi-objective optimization. Although SCP is typically applied at the species level (or hierarchically higher), it can be used at lower hierarchical levels, such as using alleles as basic units for analysis, for conservation genetics. Here, we propose a method of SCP using a multi-objective approach. We used non-dominated sorting genetic algorithm II in order to identify the smallest set of local populations of Dipteryx alata (baru) (a Brazilian Cerrado species) for conservation, representing the known genetic diversity and using allele frequency information associated with heterozygosity and Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium. We worked in 3 variations for the problem. First, we reproduced a previous experiment, but using a multi-objective approach. We found that the smallest set of populations needed to represent all alleles under study was 7, corroborating the results of the previous study, but with more distinct solutions. In the 2nd and 3rd variations, we performed simultaneous optimization of 4 and 5 objectives, respectively. We found similar but refined results for 7 populations, and a larger portfolio considering intra-specific diversity and persistence with populations ranging from 8-22. This is the first study to apply multi-objective algorithms to an SCP problem using alleles at the population level as basic units for analysis.

Biodiversity crises have led scientists to develop strategies for achieving conservation goals. The underlying principle of these strategies lies in systematic conservation planning (SCP), in which there are at least 2 conflicting objectives, making it a good candidate for multi-objective optimization. Although SCP is typically applied at the species level (or hierarchically higher), it can be used at lower hierarchical levels, such as using alleles as basic units for analysis, for conservation genetics. Here, we propose a method of SCP using a multi-objective approach. We used non-dominated sorting genetic algorithm II in order to identify the smallest set of local populations of Dipteryx alata (baru) (a Brazilian Cerrado species) for conservation, representing the known genetic diversity and using allele frequency information associated with heterozygosity and Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium. We worked in 3 variations for the problem. First, we reproduced a previous experiment, but using a multi-objective approach. We found that the smallest set of populations needed to represent all alleles under study was 7, corroborating the results of the previous study, but with more distinct solutions. In the 2nd and 3rd variations, we performed simultaneous optimization of 4 and 5 objectives, respectively. We found similar but refined results for 7 populations, and a larger portfolio considering intra-specific diversity and persistence with populations ranging from 8-22. This is the first study to apply multi-objective algorithms to an SCP problem using alleles at the population level as basic units for analysis.