Hybridization in the wild between closely related species is not unusual. In some cases, hybridization may prove beneficial for a rare taxon. Under certain conditions, however, a rare taxon can be driven rapidly to extinction by hybridizing with a more common taxon. This problem is urgent because human activities are increasingly bringing together cross-compatible species that were previously geographically isolated. US conservation policy has yet to address how to deal with hybrid-derived individuals whose ancestry includes an endangered species. Developing sound science-based conservation policy that addresses hybridization requires cross-disciplinary social-science and life-science research to address the following two questions: (1) How do human decisions with regard to species protection, trade, transportation, land use, and other factors affect the opportunities for, and rates of hybridization between, rare species and more common relatives? and (2) How do the positive or negative perceived values regarding hybrids and hybrid-derived individuals compare with values regarding their nonhybridized counterparts from social, cultural, economic, and environmental perspectives? In this article we explore the ways to inform such policy using a multidisciplinary approach.
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Vol. 60 • No. 5