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Keywords:

  • circuitscape resistance;
  • conservation;
  • Dicamptodon copei ;
  • geographic range limit;
  • least cost path;
  • spatial replication

Abstract

A species' genetic structure often varies in response to ecological and landscape processes that differ throughout the species' geographic range, yet landscape genetics studies are rarely spatially replicated. The Cope's giant salamander (Dicamptodon copei) is a neotenic, dispersal-limited amphibian with a restricted geographic range in the Pacific northwestern USA. We investigated which landscape factors affect D. copei gene flow in three regions spanning the species' range, which vary in climate, landcover and degree of anthropogenic disturbance. Least cost paths and Circuitscape resistance analyses revealed that gene flow patterns vary across the species' range, with unique combinations of landscape variables affecting gene flow in different regions. Populations in the northern coastal portions of the range had relatively high gene flow, largely facilitated by stream and river networks. Near the southeastern edge of the species' range, gene flow was more restricted overall, with relatively less facilitation by streams and more limitation by heat load index and fragmented forest cover. These results suggested that the landscape is more difficult for individuals to disperse through at the southeastern edge of the species' range, with terrestrial habitat desiccation factors becoming more limiting to gene flow. We suggest that caution be used when attempting to extrapolate landscape genetic models and conservation measures from one portion of a species' range to another.