Summary from the authors: What is responsible for genetic fragmentation? Spatiotemporally explicit model testing can help to reach the answer

An important task of conservation genetics is to determine whether spatial patterns of genetic structure were driven by historical processes of population isolation (e.g. the presence of natural barriers to dispersal) or if they are a consequence of human activities (e.g. habitat destruction and fragmentation). Resolving this question is not trivial and has important implications for establishing proper on-ground management practices: Do distinct genetic groups represent evolutionary significant units that deserve to be preserved or, on the contrary, is genetic fragmentation a consequence of anthropogenic habitat destruction and conservation actions should focus on restoring population connectivity? In this study, we used genomic data and a spatiotemporally explicit model-based approach to test these hypotheses in a red listed grasshopper endemic to the Iberian Peninsula. Our demographic analyses indicate that although natural barriers to dispersal (mountains) are the main factors determining spatial patterns of genomic variation in the study species, anthropogenic habitat destruction has also contributed to the genetic fragmentation of its populations. This study emphasizes the potential of model-based approaches to gain insights into the temporal scale at which different processes impact the demography of natural populations of great conservation concern. – María José González Serna, Personal investigador UCLM

Photo courtesy of Piluca Álvarez.

González-Serna, M. J., Cordero, P. J. and Ortego, J. 2019. Spatiotemporally explicit demographic modelling supports a joint effect of historical barriers to dispersal and contemporary landscape composition on structuring genomic variation in a red-listed grasshopper.Molecular Ecology, 28:2155-2172.

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