, Volume 14, Issue 2, pp 529-541
Date: 28 Mar 2012

Population connectivity and genetic diversity of American marten (Martes americana) in the United States northern Rocky Mountains in a climate change context

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Climate change is likely to alter population connectivity, particularly for species associated with higher elevation environments. The goal of this study is to predict the potential effects of future climate change on population connectivity and genetic diversity of American marten populations across a 30.2 million hectare region of the in the US northern Rocky Mountains. We use a landscape resistance model validated from empirical landscape genetics modeling to predict the current and expected future extent and fragmentation of American marten dispersal habitat under five climate change scenarios, corresponding to climatic warming of between 0.7 and 3.3 °C, consistent with expected climate change by year 2080. We predict the regions of the current and future landscapes where gene flow is expected to be governed by isolation by distance and the regions where population fragmentation is expected to limit gene flow. Finally, we predict changes in the strength and location of predicted movement corridors, fracture zones and the location of dispersal barriers across the study area in each scenario. We found that under the current climate, gene flow is predicted to be limited primarily by distance (isolation), and landscape structure does not significantly limit gene flow, resulting in very high genetic diversity over most of the study area. Projected climatic warming substantially reduces the extent and increases the fragmentation of marten populations in the western and northwestern parts of the study area. In contrast, climate change is not predicted to fragment the extensive higher elevation mountain massifs in central Idaho, the northern U.S. continental divide, and Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. In addition, we show locations in the study area that are important corridors in the current landscape that remain intact across the climate change scenarios.