Where do you come from, where do you go? Directional migration rates in landscape genetics


Correspondence: Rolf Holderegger, Fax: +41 (0)44 739 22 15; E-mail: rolf.holderegger@wsl.ch


Identifying landscape elements that influence gene flow and migration in wild species is the current main topic of landscape genetics. Most landscape genetic studies infer gene flow and migration from genetic distances among populations or individuals and statistically relate these measurements to landscape composition and configuration. This approach assumes symmetrical gene flow between pairs of populations. Such an assumption, however, will often be violated, especially in source–sink systems. Source populations provide more emigrants than they receive immigrants, and sink populations get many immigrants, but release few emigrants. Source–sink dynamics cannot be explored using common landscape genetic approaches relying on genetic distances. In this issue of Molecular Ecology, Andreasen et al. (2012) apply an alternative approach allowing them to infer asymmetrical migration. They use a Bayesian assignment test among objectively defined populations of mountain lions (Puma concolor) in western USA to estimate recent and directional migration rates. The study shows that an area with a high amount of wildlife refuges and low hunting pressure harbours a source population for mountain lion dispersal, while areas with high hunting pressures form sink populations; a result helpful in making informed decisions in conservation management.