Roe deer population structure in a highly fragmented landscape
Northern Belgium (Flanders) is one of the most densely populated and urbanized regions in Europe. Many species are therefore likely to suffer from anthropogenic pressure and habitat destruction and fragmentation. Although many large mammals are recolonizing in parts of Europe, including Belgium, due to adaptation, a relaxation of persecution and habitat restoration, we have little actual data concerning the effects of landscape features on their population structure. We analysed the genetic structure of discrete roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) populations in the Eastern part of Flanders, with special emphasis on the impact of habitat fragmentation and anthropogenic barriers. The sampled populations were clearly genetically differentiated. Genetic structure could be explained by purely distance-based landscape modelling, but a simpler model focusing solely on barrier effects of large transportation infrastructure explained nearly as much genetic variance. In contrast, analyses based on least-cost landscape modelling failed to yield a significant effect. Overall, the results suggest considerable landscape-level effects of transportation infrastructure.
KeywordsCapreolus capreolus Fragmentation Genetic drift Redundancy analysis Landscape genetics
We thank the hunters that collaborated in this study by providing tissue samples, and the Agentschap voor Natuur en Bos for financial and administrative support. We also thank the field and lab technicians of the research group wildlife management for their help, the laboratory staff at INBO for molecular analyses, Tony Van Tilborgh (INBO) for GIS analyses and Jan Vercammen and Tim Adriaens for making the maps.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest. All experiments and collection of samples comply with the current Belgian laws.
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