CHAMPAGNON J., ELMBERG J., GUILLEMAIN M., GAUTHIER-CLERC M. & LEBRETON J.D.
We review the indexed scientific literature (233 papers) dealing with ‘restocking’ of vertebrates, i.e. reinforcement of wild populations by release of individuals of the same species. We found evidence that restocking may have desired beneficial effects such as: increased genetic diversity and mitigation of Allee effects in small populations; increased size or even salvation of threatened populations; increased harvest opportunities; and, redirection of harvest pressure from wild to captive-bred individuals. However, restocking may also have negative effects like changes in behaviour, morphology, and demography in recipient populations, as well as enhancement of pathogen spread. Negative genetic effects on recipient populations include homogenisation, introduction of non-native genes, and loss of local adaptation. Research thus far is strongly biased towards birds and mammals, and geographically to Europe and North America. Restocking for conservation purposes has been studied more than that for harvest management, while the latter may be of far greater importance in terms of number of released individuals. Demographic and genetic effects have been studied more than effects on behaviour, which in turn have received more attention than effects on morphology and pathogen spread. There is a general tendency for research on restocking to be fragmented taxonomically and by biological sub-disciplines. Our review demonstrates that restocking practices may and do cause significant disruptions of natural patterns in wild recipient populations. It also highlights the diversity, frequency and extent of these activities, leading us to argue that restocking is an emerging conservation and ecosystem resilience issue of global significance. Based on this review we outline monitoring and research needs for the future. We also provide guidelines to practitioners in conservation, game management, fisheries, epidemiology and other fields involved in restocking of vertebrates, who are likely to benefit from merging their perspectives and adopting a more cross-taxonomical and interdisciplinary attitude when laying out future agendas for evaluation and policy-making in this field.