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Impact of urban fragmentation on the genetic structure of the eastern red-backed salamander

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Abstract

Urban development is a major cause of habitat loss and fragmentation. Few studies, however, have dealt with fragmentation in an urban landscape. In this paper, we examine the genetic structure of isolated populations of the eastern red-backed salamander (Plethodon cinereus) in a metropolitan area. We sampled four populations located on a mountain in the heart of Montréal (Québec, Canada), which presents a mosaic of forested patches isolated by roads, graveyards and buildings. We assessed the genetic structure of these populations using microsatellite loci and compared it to the genetic structure of four populations located in a continuous habitat in southern Québec. Our results indicate that allelic richness and heterozygosity are lower in the urban populations. Exact differentiation tests and pairwise F ST also show that the populations found in the fragmented habitat are genetically differentiated, whereas populations located in the continuous habitat are genetically homogeneous. These results raise conservation concerns for these populations as well as for rare or threatened species inhabiting urban landscapes.

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Acknowledgements

We would like to thank D. Fournier, P. Graillon, S. Marquis, M.-J. Morin, R. Pétel, É. Richard and N. Tessier for their contribution to this study and all members of the Laboratoire d’Écologie Moléculaire et Évolution for their comments on an earlier draft of this manuscript. This study was supported by the Direction des sports, des parcs et des espaces verts de la Ville de Montréal, the Parc national du Mont-Mégantic, Amphibia-Nature, a NSERC scholarship to S. Noël and NSERC grant no. 0155251 to F.-J. Lapointe. Our sampling protocol was approved by the Comité de déontologie de l’expérimentation des animaux of the Université de Montréal.

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Correspondence to Sarah Noël.

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Noël, S., Ouellet, M., Galois, P. et al. Impact of urban fragmentation on the genetic structure of the eastern red-backed salamander. Conserv Genet 8, 599–606 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10592-006-9202-1

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