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    Climate change is arguably the greatest challenge to conservation of our time. Most vulnerability assessments rely on past and current species distributions to predict future persistence but ignore species’ abilities to disperse through landscapes, which may be particularly important in fragmented habitats and crucial for long-term persistence in changing environments. Landscape genetic approaches explore the interactions between landscape features and gene flow and can clarify how organisms move among suitable habitats, but have suffered from methodological uncertainties. We used a landscape genetic approach to determine how landscape and climate-related features influence gene flow for American pikas (Ochotona princeps) in Crater Lake National Park. Pikas are heat intolerant and restricted to cool microclimates; thus, range contractions have been predicted as climate changes. We evaluated the correlation between landscape variables and genetic distance using partial Mantel tests in a causal modelling framework, and used spatially explicit simulations to evaluate methods of model optimization including a novel approach based on relative support and reciprocal causal modelling. We found that gene flow was primarily restricted by topographic relief, water and west-facing aspects, suggesting that physical restrictions related to small body size and mode of locomotion, as well as exposure to relatively high temperatures, limit pika dispersal in this alpine habitat. Our model optimization successfully identified landscape features influencing resistance in the simulated data for this landscape, but underestimated the magnitude of resistance. This is the first landscape genetic study to address the fundamental question of what limits dispersal and gene flow in the American pika.

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    Castillo, Jessica A.; Epps, Clinton W.; Davis, Anne R.; Cushman, Samuel A. 2014. Landscape effects on gene flow for a climate-sensitive montane species, the American pika. Molecular Ecology. 23: 843-856.


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    causal modelling, CDPOP, landscape genetics, Mantel tests

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