How spatio-temporal habitat connectivity affects amphibian genetic structure

Product Type: 

Journal Article

Year: 

2015

Author(s): 

Watts, A.G., P.E. Schlichting, S.M. Billerman, B.R. Jesmer, S. Micheletti, M.J. Fortin, W.C. Funk, P. Hapeman, E. Muths and M.A. Murphy

Suggested Citation: 

Watts, A.G., P.E. Schlichting, S.M. Billerman, B.R. Jesmer, S. Micheletti, M.J. Fortin, W.C. Funk, P. Hapeman, E. Muths and M.A. Murphy. 2015. How spatio-temporal habitat connectivity affects amphibian genetic structure. Frontiers in Genetics 6:275. doi: 10.3389/fgene.2015.00275

Heterogeneous landscapes and fluctuating environmental conditions can affect species dispersal, population genetics, and genetic structure, yet understanding how biotic and abiotic factors affect population dynamics in a fluctuating environment is critical for species management. We evaluated how spatio-temporal habitat connectivity influences dispersal and genetic structure in a population of boreal chorus frogs (Pseudacris maculata) using a landscape genetics approach. We developed gravity models to assess the contribution of various factors to the observed genetic distance as a measure of functional connectivity. We selected (a) wetland (within-site) and (b) landscape matrix (between-site) characteristics; and (c) wetland connectivity metrics using a unique methodology. Specifically, we developed three networks that quantify wetland connectivity based on: (i) P. maculata dispersal ability, (ii) temporal variation in wetland quality, and (iii) contribution of wetland stepping-stones to frog dispersal. We examined 18 wetlands in Colorado, and quantified 12 microsatellite loci from 322 individual frogs. We found that genetic connectivity was related to topographic complexity, within- and between-wetland differences in moisture, and wetland functional connectivity as contributed by stepping-stone wetlands. Our results highlight the role that dynamic environmental factors have on dispersal-limited species and illustrate how complex asynchronous interactions contribute to the structure of spatially-explicit metapopulations.

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Erin Muths
Erin Muths