Landscape effects on the contemporary genetic structure of Ruffed Grouse (Bonasa umbellus) populations

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Jensen, Ashley M.
O'Neil, Nicholas P.
Iwaniuk, Andrew N.
Burg, Theresa M.
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The amount of dispersal that occurs among populations can be limited by landscape heterogeneity, which is often due to both natural processes and anthropogenic activity leading to habitat loss or fragmentation. Understanding how populations are structured and mapping existing dispersal corridors among populations is imperative to both determining contemporary forces mediating population connectivity, and informing proper management of species with fragmented populations. Furthermore, the contemporary processes mediating gene flow across heterogeneous landscapes on a large scale are understudied, particularly with respect to widespread species. This study focuses on a widespread game bird, the Ruffed Grouse (Bonasa umbellus), for which we analyzed samples from the western extent of the range. Using three types of genetic markers, we uncovered multiple factors acting in concert that are responsible for mediating contemporary population connectivity in this species. Multiple genetically distinct groups were detected; microsatellite markers revealed six groups, and a mitochondrial marker revealed four. Many populations of Ruffed Grouse are genetically isolated, likely by macrogeographic barriers. Furthermore, the addition of landscape genetic methods not only corroborated genetic structure results, but also uncovered compelling evidence that dispersal resistance created by areas of unsuitable habitat is the most important factor mediating population connectivity among the sampled populations. This research has important implications for both our study species and other inhabitants of the early successional forest habitat preferred by Ruffed Grouse. Moreover, it adds to a growing body of evidence that isolation by resistance is more prevalent in shaping population structure of widespread species than previously thought.
Open access article. Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International LIcense (CC BY 4.0) applies
Dispersal barriers , Isolation by resistance , Landscape genetics , Bonasa umbellus
Jensen, A. M., O'Neil, N. P., Iwaniuk, A. N., * Burg, T. M. (2019). Landscape effects on the contemporary genetic structure of Ruffed Grouse (Bonasa umbellus) populations. Ecology and Evoluiton, 9(10), 5572-5592.