Conservation metagenomics: a new branch of conservation biology
Multifaceted approaches are required to monitor wildlife populations and improve conservation efforts. In the last decade, increasing evidence suggests that metagenomic analysis offers valuable perspectives and tools for identifying microbial communities and functions. It has become clear that gut microbiome plays a critical role in health, nutrition, and physiology of wildlife, including numerous endangered animals in the wild and in captivity. In this review, we first introduce the human microbiome and metagenomics, highlighting the importance of microbiome for host fitness. Then, for the first time, we propose the concept of conservation metagenomics, an emerging subdiscipline of conservation biology, which aims to understand the roles of the microbiota in evolution and conservation of endangered animals. We define what conservation metagenomics is along with current approaches, main scientific issues and significant implications in the study of host evolution, physiology, nutrition, ecology and conservation. We also discuss future research directions of conservation metagenomics. Although there is still a long way to go, conservation metagenomics has already shown a significant potential for improving the conservation and management of wildlife.
Keywordsmicrobiome conservation biology conservation metagenomics endangered animal
This work was funded by the Strategic Priority Research Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (XDB31000000), the National Key Program of Research and Development, Ministry of Science and Technology of China (2016YFC0503200), and the Creative Research Group Project of National Natural Science Foundation of China (31821001).
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