, Volume 5, Issue 3, pp 207-215

Dispersal of Two Species of Trichoptera from Desert Springs: Conservation Implications for Isolated vs Connected Populations

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Abstract

During the Pleistocene, when the climate was wetter and cooler, aquatic habitats in the Great Basin of western North America were much more extensive and connected. As the climate warmed over the last 10 000 years, many of these habitats dried but others remained as isolated springs and inland lakes. The isolation of desert springs and lack of dispersal between populations of non-vagile species (e.g. fish, spring snails) has led to genetic differentiation and speciation. However, the extent to which vagile species of aquatic insects disperse from spring to spring is unknown. We examined the population genetics of two caddisflies, Hesperophylax designatus (Limnephilidae) and Lepidostoma ojanum (Lepidostomatidae) that occur in isolated springs in Nevada and eastern California to determine the extent of their dispersal from spring to spring. Mitochondrial DNA sequences indicate that the populations of L. ojanum are isolated and that the populations represent management units. In contrast, H. designatus individuals are flying from spring to spring and their populations are connected by dispersal. Disturbance impacts (e.g. grazing by ungulates, water extraction) that eliminate poor dispersers (e.g. L. ojanum) locally may result in permanent losses of genetic diversity; this is less likely with broader dispersers such as H. designatus.