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Urban landscape genetics: canopy cover predicts gene flow between white-footed mouse (Peromyscus leucopus) populations in New York City



    1. Department of Natural Sciences, A-0506, Baruch College, City University of New York (CUNY), 17 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10010, USA
    2. Ph.D. Program in Ecology, Evolutionary Biology, & Behavior, The Graduate Center, City University of New York, 365 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10016, USA
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Jason Munshi-South, Fax: +1 646 660 6201; E-mail:


In this study, I examine the influence of urban canopy cover on gene flow between 15 white-footed mouse (Peromyscus leucopus) populations in New York City parklands. Parks in the urban core are often highly fragmented, leading to rapid genetic differentiation of relatively nonvagile species. However, a diverse array of ‘green’ spaces may provide dispersal corridors through ‘grey’ urban infrastructure. I identify urban landscape features that promote genetic connectivity in an urban environment and compare the success of two different landscape connectivity approaches at explaining gene flow. Gene flow was associated with ‘effective distances’ between populations that were calculated based on per cent tree canopy cover using two different approaches: (i) isolation by effective distance (IED) that calculates the single best pathway to minimize passage through high-resistance (i.e. low canopy cover) areas, and (ii) isolation by resistance (IBR), an implementation of circuit theory that identifies all low-resistance paths through the landscape. IBR, but not IED, models were significantly associated with three measures of gene flow (Nm from FST, BayesAss+ and Migrate-n) after factoring out the influence of isolation by distance using partial Mantel tests. Predicted corridors for gene flow between city parks were largely narrow, linear parklands or vegetated spaces that are not managed for wildlife, such as cemeteries and roadway medians. These results have implications for understanding the impacts of urbanization trends on native wildlife, as well as for urban reforestation efforts that aim to improve urban ecosystem processes.