January 3, 2011

Stella Hurtley
1200 New York Avenue NW
Washington DC 20005

Dear Stella Hurtley:
I just happened to notice in Assessing Biodiversity Declines SCIENCE vol. 330 no. 6010 December 10, 2010 page 1451 that community structure is one of the paramount issues in conservation.  It is now recognized that there is such a thing as outbreeding depression just as there is inbreeding depression.  It’s even in Wikipedia. 

I have taken an interest in the issue for many years.  My most recent summary is last Christmas Eve’s posting on nobabies.net along with other relevant information I have found and my many letters to authorities tapping them (ya’ll) on the elbow.  For instance not very long ago I ran across an article about the decline of the Coho salmon and attempts to save them.  A government agency was industriously gathering salmon from different streams and breeding them with a view to maximizing genetic diversity.  This is one of the inherently bad ideas like seeing how high you can shoot an arrow straight up.  Time out of mind the salmon have given their souls getting back to their natal brooks to mate with cousins but the experts have chosen the opposite tactic. 

I wrote one of the people involved begging that the issue be reconsidered.  I had hoped for a reply along the lines of, “Tut tut, my lad (n.b. I’m old as sin, but they don’t know it) of course we have taken that into account.  We have assessed exactly what mating pool size is optimal for the Coho and always adjust our methods accordingly.”  Even an offended, “You are out of your mind.  Every child knows that the greater the diversity the healthier and more fertile the population no matter how much diversity there is,” would be wrong, but at least it would be something. 

So if people are talking about structure seriously, that would be a good thing.  Of course if the attitude is, “The best structure is no structure at all,” that would not bode well. 


M. Linton Herbert MD

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