Conservation Genetics

, Volume 17, Issue 2, pp 437–453 | Cite as

Integrating ecological and genetic structure to define management units for caribou in Eastern Canada

  • Glenn Yannic
  • Martin-Hugues St-Laurent
  • Joaquin Ortego
  • Joëlle Taillon
  • Alexandre Beauchemin
  • Louis Bernatchez
  • Christian Dussault
  • Steeve D. Côté
Research Article


Genetic diversity is a key parameter to delineate management units, but many organisms also display ecological characteristics that may reflect potential local adaptations. Here, we used ecological and genetic information to delineate management units for a complex system involving several ecotypes of caribou (Rangifer tarandus) from Québec and Labrador, eastern Canada. We genotyped 560 caribou at 16 microsatellite loci and used three Bayesian clustering methods to spatially delineate and characterize genetic structure across the landscape. The different approaches employed did not converge on the same solution, and differed in the number of inferred genetic clusters that best fit the dataset but also in the spatial distribution of genetic variation. We reconciled variability among the methods using a synthetic approach that considers the sum of the partitions obtained by each of them and retrieved six genetically distinct groups that differ in their spatial extent across the range of caribou in the study area. These genetic groups are not consistent with the presently defined ecological designations for this species. Combining both genetic and ecological criteria, we distinguished eight independent management units. Overall, the management units we propose should be the focus of conservation and management actions aimed to maximize genetic and ecological diversity and ensure the persistence of caribou populations inhabiting increasingly disturbed landscapes.


Bayesian assignment clustering Genetic diversity Management unit Spatial structure Ecotype Rangifer tarandus Effective population size 



We thank B. Baillargeon, L. Breton, V. Brodeur, S. Couturier, S. Crowley, C. Dussault, D. Elliott, D. Fortin, S. Gravel, D. Grenier, L. Jourdain, C. Jutras, R. Lemieux, M. Paré, and S. Rivard for help with data gathering. Caribou Ungava is funded by ArcticNet, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), Hydro-Québec, Glen Core-Mine Raglan, Fédération des Pourvoiries du Québec, CircumArctic Rangifer Monitoring & Assessment network (CARMA), Ministère du Développement durable, de l’Environnement, de la Faune et des Parcs, Labrador and Newfoundland Wildlife Division, Makivik Corporation, Fédération québécoise des chasseurs et pêcheurs, Fondation de la Faune du Québec, Canadian Wildlife Federation, Fonds Vert Québec, Institute for Environmental Monitoring and Research and Canadian Foundation for Innovation. We are grateful to C. Hins, S. de Bellefeuille, and G. Côté for technical support and M. Le Corre for his work on the maps. Comments and suggestions by M. Cronin, M. Festa-Bianchet, B. Weckworth and anonymous reviewers improved the quality of this manuscript.

Supplementary material

10592_2015_795_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (3.3 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 3380 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Glenn Yannic
    • 1
    • 2
    • 7
  • Martin-Hugues St-Laurent
    • 2
  • Joaquin Ortego
    • 1
    • 3
  • Joëlle Taillon
    • 4
  • Alexandre Beauchemin
    • 5
  • Louis Bernatchez
    • 6
  • Christian Dussault
    • 4
  • Steeve D. Côté
    • 1
  1. 1.Département de Biologie & Centre d’Études NordiquesUniversité LavalQuebecCanada
  2. 2.Département de Biologie, Chimie et Géographie, Centre d’études Nordiques & Centre d’étude de la ForêtUniversité du Québec à RimouskiRimouskiCanada
  3. 3.Conservation and Evolutionary Genetics Group, Department of Integrative EcologyEstación Biológica de Doñana (EBD-CSIC)SevilleSpain
  4. 4.Direction de la faune terrestre et de l’avifauneMinistère du Développement durable, de l’Environnement, de la Faune et des Parcs du QuébecQuebecCanada
  5. 5.Hydro-Québec Équipement et Services PartagésMontrealCanada
  6. 6.Institut de Biologie Intégrative et des Systèmes (IBIS)Université Laval, Pavillon Charles-Eugène-MarchandQuebecCanada
  7. 7.LECA - Laboratoire d’Ecologie Alpine, UMR CNRS 5553Université de Savoie Mont-BlancLe Bourget-du-LacFrance

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