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The effects of habitat fragmentation via forestry plantation establishment on spatial genotypic structure in the small marsupial carnivore, Antechinus agilis

Authors


S.C. Banks, Fax: 613 99055613; E-mail: sam.banks@sci.monash.edu.au

Abstract

Dispersal is an important influence on species’ distributions, patch colonization and population persistence in fragmented habitat. We studied the impacts of habitat fragmentation resulting from establishment of an exotic pine plantation on dispersal of the marsupial carnivore, Antechinus agilis. We applied spatial analyses of individual multilocus microsatellite genotypes and mitochondrial haplotypes to study patterns of gene flow in fragmented habitat and natural habitat ‘control’ areas, and how this is affected by the spatial dispersion of habitat patches, the presence of corridors and a ‘mainland’ source of migrants. Spatial analysis of molecular variance and partial Mantel tests confirmed the absence of cryptic barriers to gene flow in continuous habitat, which if present would confound the comparison of genetic structures in fragmented vs. unfragmented habitats. Spatial genotypic structure suggested that although dispersal was male-biased in both habitat types, fragmentation restricted dispersal of males more than that of females and the degree of restriction of male dispersal was dependent on the geographical isolation of the patch. The scale of positive genotypic structure in fragmented habitat was restricted to the two closest patches for females and the three closest patches for males. Our results provide evidence for significantly increased gene flow through habitat corridors relative to that across the matrix and for significantly lower gene flow between ‘mainland’ unfragmented habitat and habitat patches relative to that within either habitat type, suggesting a behavioural barrier to crossing habitat interfaces.

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