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Structure and fragmentation of growling grass frog metapopulations

Abstract

Metapopulations occur in fragmented landscapes, and consist of demographically-independent populations connected by dispersal. Nevertheless, anthropogenic habitat fragmentation may be fatal to metapopulations, as it disrupts dispersal and gene flow, and undermines the balance between population extinction and colonization. Understanding the extent to which particular land-use practices disrupt dispersal and gene flow is therefore crucial for conserving metapopulations. We examined the structure and fragmentation of metapopulations of the endangered growling grass frog (Litoria raniformis) in an urbanizing landscape in southern Australia. Population clustering analyses revealed three distinct genetic units, corresponding to the three wetland clusters sampled. Isolation-by-distance was apparent between populations, and genetic distance was significantly correlated with the presence of urban barriers between populations. Our study provides evidence that urbanization fragments metapopulations of L. raniformis. Managers of L. raniformis in urbanizing landscapes should seek to mitigate effects of urbanization on dispersal and gene flow.

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Acknowledgments

Funding for this project was provided by an Australian Research Council Linkage Grant (LP0667815). Additional funding was provided to JH from the Holsworth Wildlife Endowment, Museum Victoria and the Loftus-Hills Memorial Grant (University of Melbourne). Tissue collection was conducted by GH with support from a David Myers Postgraduate Scholarship (La Trobe University), and grants from the Growling Grass Frog Trust Fund and Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment. Manuscript preparation was supported by Australian Research Council Linkage Grant (LP0990161). We thank M. Littlejohn, B. Malone, M. Scroggie and P. Robertson for expert advice. Technical support was provided by staff of the Sciences Department, Museum Victoria, and the Department of Zoology, La Trobe University. Private landholders in the Merri Creek catchment kindly allowed us access to their properties for sampling purposes.

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Hale, J.M., Heard, G.W., Smith, K.L. et al. Structure and fragmentation of growling grass frog metapopulations. Conserv Genet 14, 313–322 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10592-012-0428-9

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10592-012-0428-9

Keywords

  • Endangered
  • Growling grass frog
  • Metapopulation
  • Habitat fragmentation
  • Microsatellites
  • Urbanization