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Genes (Basel). 2018 Aug 10;9(8). pii: E403. doi: 10.3390/genes9080403.

Habitat Fragmentation Reduces Genetic Diversity and Connectivity of the Mexican Spotted Owl: A Simulation Study Using Empirical Resistance Models.

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School of Earth Sciences and Environmental Sustainability, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ 86011, USA.
USDA Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station, 2500 S. Pine Knoll, Flagstaff, AZ 86001, USA.
USDA Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station, 2500 S. Pine Knoll, Flagstaff, AZ 86001, USA.


We evaluated how differences between two empirical resistance models for the same geographic area affected predictions of gene flow processes and genetic diversity for the Mexican spotted owl (Strix occidentalis lucida). The two resistance models represented the landscape under low- and high-fragmentation parameters. Under low fragmentation, the landscape had larger but highly concentrated habitat patches, whereas under high fragmentation, the landscape had smaller habitat patches that scattered across a broader area. Overall habitat amount differed little between resistance models. We tested eight scenarios reflecting a factorial design of three factors: resistance model (low vs. high fragmentation), isolation hypothesis (isolation-by-distance, IBD, vs. isolation-by-resistance, IBR), and dispersal limit of species (200 km vs. 300 km). Higher dispersal limit generally had a positive but small influence on genetic diversity. Genetic distance increased with both geographic distance and landscape resistance, but landscape resistance displayed a stronger influence. Connectivity was positively related to genetic diversity under IBR but was less important under IBD. Fragmentation had a strong negative influence on the spatial patterns of genetic diversity and effective population size (Ns). Despite habitats being more concentrated and less widely distributed, the low-fragmentation landscape had greater genetic diversity than the high-fragmentation landscape, suggesting that highly concentrated but larger habitat patches may provide a genetic refuge for the Mexican spotted owl.


CDPOP; biodiversity; connectivity; endangered species; fragmentation; gene flow; landscape genetics; multiscale; resistance; simulation

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