Considering spatial and temporal scale in landscape-genetic studies of gene flow

Authors


Corey Devin Anderson, Fax: 480 965 6899; E-mail: corey.d.anderson@asu.edu

Abstract

Landscape features exist at multiple spatial and temporal scales, and these naturally affect spatial genetic structure and our ability to make inferences about gene flow. This article discusses how decisions about sampling of genotypes (including choices about analytical methods and genetic markers) should be driven by the scale of spatial genetic structure, the time frame that landscape features have existed in their current state, and all aspects of a species’ life history. Researchers should use caution when making inferences about gene flow, especially when the spatial extent of the study area is limited. The scale of sampling of the landscape introduces different features that may affect gene flow. Sampling grain should be smaller than the average home-range size or dispersal distance of the study organism and, for raster data, existing research suggests that simplifying the thematic resolution into discrete classes may result in low power to detect effects on gene flow. Therefore, the methods used to characterize the landscape between sampling sites may be a primary determinant for the spatial scale at which analytical results are applicable, and the use of only one sampling scale for a particular statistical method may lead researchers to overlook important factors affecting gene flow. The particular analytical technique used to correlate landscape data and genetic data may also influence results; common landscape-genetic methods may not be suitable for all study systems, particularly when the rate of landscape change is faster than can be resolved by common molecular markers.

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