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    Description

    Comparative landscape genetic studies provide insights into whether relationships between landscape features and patterns of spatial genetic structure differ among populations, species, habitat types, and regions. For species with fragmented distributions, especially when management practices contribute to fragmentation, tests of the factors structuring population connectivity are particularly important for understanding continued risks. We determined levels of genetic diversity and tested the relationships of landscape-scale vegetative, geographic, and climate variables with genetic distance in two congeneric, endemic salamander species with status of concern. Using microsatellite data for 326 Rhyacotriton kezeri and 557 Rhyacotriton variegatus individuals collected from 17 to 29 localities, respectively, we implemented a model of landscape resistance based on circuit theory. The northernmost portions of each species’ range is more fragmented than areas to the south, leading to the prediction that these areas would have relatively lower genetic diversity in response. Due to reliance of both species upon cold-water habitats, we predicted that landscape variables maintaining cool, moist microhabitats would be correlated with gene flow. Genetic structure was high overall and trended toward increasing with the proportion of the forested landscape. Based on maximum likelihood population effects models across genetic clusters and species, land cover and roads were the best predictors of genetic distance, even though the degree of fragmentation differed across each species’ geographic range. Our results suggest that forest cover is essential for dispersal in these salamanders, indicating negative effects of fragmentation resulting from timber harvest and other forest disturbances.

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    Citation

    Emel, Sarah L.; Olson, Deanna H.; Knowles, L. Lacey; Storfer, Andrew. 2019. Comparative landscape genetics of two endemic torrent salamander species, Rhyacotriton kezeri and R. variegatus: implications for forest management and species conservation. Conservation Genetics. 20(4): 801-815. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10592-019-01172-6.

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    Keywords

    Amphibian, land cover, MLPE, Pacific Northwest, Rhyacotriton kezeri, Rhyacotriton variegatus.

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https://www.fs.usda.gov/treesearch/pubs/58367