, Volume 28, Issue 3, pp 471-486
Date: 08 Jan 2013

Linking movement behavior and fine-scale genetic structure to model landscape connectivity for bobcats (Lynx rufus)

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Abstract

Spatial heterogeneity can constrain the movement of individuals and consequently genes across a landscape, influencing demographic and genetic processes. In this study, we linked information on landscape composition, movement behavior, and genetic differentiation to gain a mechanistic understanding of how spatial heterogeneity may influence movement and gene flow of bobcats in the agricultural landscape of Iowa (USA). We analyzed movement paths of 23 animals to parameterize landscape resistance surfaces, applied least cost path analysis to generate measures of effective geographic distance between DNA collection locations of 625 bobcats, and tested the correlation between genetic distance and the different models of geographic distance. We found that bobcats showed a strong preference for forest over any other habitat type, and that incorporating information on habitat composition both along the path and in the surrounding landscape provided the best model of movement. Measures of effective geographic distance were significantly correlated with genetic distance, but not once the effects of Euclidean distance were accounted for. Thus, despite the impact of habitat composition on movement behavior, we did not detect a signature of a landscape effect in genetic structure. Our results are consistent with the issue of limiting factors: the high uniformity of forest fragmentation across southern Iowa, the primary study area, results in a landscape resistance pattern virtually indistinguishable from the isolation-by-distance pattern. The northern portion of the state, however, is predicted to pose a high level of resistance to bobcat movement, which may impede the regional genetic connectivity of populations across the Midwest.