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Small-scale patterns of genetic variation in a headwater specialist mayfly: No influence of selective forest harvesting on diversity



Terrestrial environments allow the adults of some aquatic insects to disperse between headwater streams, which may be important for maintaining population connectivity and persistence. Winged adult stages of aquatic insects are particularly sensitive to degradation of terrestrial habitat, relying on it for food, reproduction and dispersal. In this study we examined the genetic pattern of the Australian mayfly Ulmerophlebia sp. AV2, in north-eastern New South Wales, and compared the genetic diversity in forested and partially deforested sub-catchments. Our hypotheses were (i) patterns of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) variation in the Leptophlebiidae mayfly Ulmerophlebia sp. AV2 show a pattern of structuring that reflects low or widespread dispersal along the stream network and across catchments; and (ii) genetic diversity will be lower in partially deforested sub-catchments compared to forested sub-catchments. We found gene flow was not restricted among headwater streams within sub-catchments but was restricted at distances >15 km. Genetic diversity was high (mean haplotype diversity >0.85) in both control and harvested sub-catchments. Instead, a historical signature of population expansion was detected which is consistent with findings for other aquatic insect taxa of eastern Australia. Our results suggest that the selective harvesting management strategy, including the use of riparian buffer zones, within these sub-catchments does not appear to restrict dispersal between streams or erode diversity within streams for Ulmerophlebia sp. AV2. Selective harvesting therefore appears to have minimal impacts on terrestrial/aquatic links in the life cycle of this insect.

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