1. Landscape genetic approaches were used to assess functional connectivity of populations of the endangered damselfly Coenagrion mercuriale in a fragmented agricultural landscape in Switzerland. Spatial genetic clustering methods combined with interpolation by kriging and landscape genetic corridor analysis were applied to identify landscape elements that enhance or hinder dispersal and gene flow.
2. Spatial genetic clustering analysis divided the sampled populations into a northern and a southern genetic group. The boundary between the two groups coincided with a hill ridge intersecting the study area. Landscape corridor analysis identified five landscape elements that significantly affected gene flow. Elevation change, Euclidian distance, patches of forest and flowing waterbodies acted as barriers, whereas open agricultural land enhanced gene flow between populations of C. mercuriale.
3. This study showed that movement of C. mercuriale was not restricted to its preferred habitat (i.e. streams). Populations linked via continuous open agricultural land were functionally well connected if they were not more than about 1.5–2 km apart. In contrast, substantial elevation change and larger forest patches separated populations. These findings may serve as a basis to define conservation units and should be considered when planning connectivity measures, such as determining the locations of stepping stones, or the restoration of streams.
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