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Keywords:

  • Capreolus capreolus;
  • connectivity;
  • dispersal;
  • gene flow;
  • habitat fragmentation;
  • isolation-by-distance

Abstract

Changes in agricultural practices and forest fragmentation can have a dramatic effect on landscape connectivity and the dispersal of animals, potentially reducing gene flow within populations. In this study, we assessed the influence of woodland connectivity on gene flow in a traditionally forest-dwelling species — the European roe deer — in a fragmented landscape. From a sample of 648 roe deer spatially referenced within a study area of 55 × 40 km, interindividual genetic distances were calculated from genotypes at 12 polymorphic microsatellite loci. We calculated two geographical distances between each pair of individuals: the Euclidean distance (straight line) and the ‘least cost distance’ (the trajectory that maximizes the use of wooded corridors). We tested the correlation between genetic pairwise distances and the two types of geographical pairwise distance using Mantel tests. The correlation was better using the least cost distance, which takes into account the distribution of wooded patches, especially for females (the correlation was stronger but not significant for males). These results suggest that in a fragmented woodland area roe deer dispersal is strongly linked to wooded structures and hence that gene flow within the roe deer population is influenced by the connectivity of the landscape.