In the face of continuing habitat fragmentation and isolation, the optimal level of connectivity between populations has become a central issue in conservation biology. A common rule of thumb holds that one migrant per generation into a subpopulation is sufficient to minimize the loss of polymorphism and heterozygosity within subpopulations while allowing for divergence in allele frequencies among subpopulations. The one-migrant-per- generation rule is based on numerous simplifying assumptions that may not hold in natural populations. We examine the conceptual and theoretical basis of the rule and consider both genetic and nongenetic factors that influence the desired level of connectivity among subpopulations. We conclude that one migrant per generation is a desirable minimum, but it may be inadequate for may natural populations. We suggest that a minimum of 1 and a maximum of 10 migrants per generation would be an appropriate general rule of thumb for genetic purposes, bearing in mind that factors other than genetics may further influence the ideal level of connectivity.
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|Published - Dec 1996