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Restricted gene flow and genetic drift in recently fragmented populations of an endangered steppe bird

AuthorsMéndez, María ; Tella, José Luis ; Godoy, José A.
Issue Date2011
CitationBiological Conservation 144: 2615- 2622 (2011)
AbstractIdentifying the genetic processes derived from habitat fragmentation is critical for the conservation of endangered species. We conducted an integrated analysis of genetic patterns in the endangered Dupont’s lark (Chersophilus duponti), a circum-Mediterranean songbird threatened by the loss and fragmentation of natural steppes in recent decades. After sampling all the remaining Spanish populations and the two clos¬est North African ones, we found that the Mediterranean Sea acts as a major barrier against gene flow and that recent habitat fragmentation is isolating Spanish populations at different spatial scales. While we found a historical signal of gene flow among Spanish regions, a coalescent model supported that the ancestral panmictic population is evolving into several different units in the absence of current gene flow, genetic drift being more intense in the smaller and more isolated populations. Moreover, small-scale spa¬tial autocorrelation analyses showed that genetic differentiation is also acting within populations. The spatial genetic structure, significant levels of inbreeding and high relatedness within patches raise con¬cerns on the viability of most of the extant populations. We highlight the urgency for steppe patches to be protected, expanded and reconnected, considering the genetic clusters identified here rather than the previously considered eco-geographic regions occupied by the species. Meanwhile, translocations could be considered as a complementary, faster management action to attenuate the crowding and genetic effects of population fragmentation and the extinction risk of small populations without compromising the current local adaptations, culture diversity and genetic clusters already known for the species.
Identifiersdoi: 10.1016/j.biocon.2011.07.011
issn: 0006-3207
Appears in Collections:(EBD) Artículos
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