Conservation Genetics

, Volume 17, Issue 4, pp 753–760 | Cite as

On applications of landscape genetics

  • Jeff Bowman
  • Janet E. Greenhorn
  • Robby R. Marrotte
  • Michelle M. McKay
  • Kimberley Y. Morris
  • Melanie B. Prentice
  • Morgan Wehtje


Recent assertions in the literature (e.g., Keller et al. 2015) suggest that landscape genetic research has been infrequently applied by practitioners. We were interested to test this assertion, which is difficult to assess, since applications may not be detectable through searches of peer-reviewed literature. Producing publications may not be a goal of practitioners. We developed a method to search the internet for evidence of research applications and evaluated 25 different research fields in the natural sciences. We found that fields with more publications also had more applications, but the field of landscape genetics was less applied than expected based on the number of peer-reviewed publications—only about 4 % of landscape genetics articles were applied. In fact, all research fields in genetics or evolutionary biology were under-applied compared to ‘whole organism’, ecological research fields. This result suggests the lack of applications in landscape genetics may be due to a systemic under-application of genetics research, perhaps related to a lack of understanding of genetics by practitioners. We did find some evidence of landscape genetic applications however, which we sorted into 5 categories: (1) identification of evolutionarily significant units for conservation, (2) managing pathogens and invasive species, (3) natural heritage systems planning, (4) assessing population status, and (5) restoration of populations.


Application Gray literature Landscape genetics Peer review Policy Practitioner Web scraping 

Supplementary material

10592_2016_834_MOESM1_ESM.docx (29 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 28 kb)


  1. A’mar T, Palsson W (2014) Assessment of the Pacific cod stock in the Gulf of Alaska. In: Stock assessment and fishery evaluation report for the groundfish resources of the Gulf of Alaska. North Pacific Management Council, Anchorage, pp 171–282. ( Accessed 5 Jan 2016
  2. Baskerville GL (1997) Advocacy, science, policy and life in the real world. Conserv Ecol 1(1):9.
  3. BC Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations (2012) British Columbia grizzly bear population estimate for 2012. Accessed 18 Aug 2015
  4. Blanchong JA, Samuel MD, Scribner KT, Weckworth BV, Langenberg JA, Filcek KB (2008) Landscape genetics and the spatial distribution of chronic wasting disease. Biol Lett 4:130–133CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. COSEWIC (2010) COSEWIC’s assessment process and review criteria. Committee on the Status of endangered wildlife in Canada. Accessed 18 Aug 2015
  6. COSEWIC (2011) Designatable units for caribou (Rangifer tarandus) in Canada. Committee on the status of endangered wildlife in Canada. Accessed 17 Aug 2015
  7. COSEWIC (2013) Guidelines for recognizing designatable units. Committee on the status of endangered wildlife in Canada. Accessed 18 Aug 2015
  8. Costello AB, Down TE, Pollard SM, Pacas CJ, Taylor EB (2002) The influence of history and contemporary stream hydrology on the evolution of genetic diversity within species: an examination of microsatellite DNA variation in bull trout, Salvelinus confluentus (Pisces: Salmonidae). Evolution 57:328–344CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cullingham CI, Kyle CJ, Pond BA, Rees EE, White BN (2009) Differential permeability of rivers to raccoon gene flow corresponds to rabies incidence in Ontario, Canada. Mol Ecol 18:43–53PubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Cullingham CI, Merrill EH, Pybus MJ, Bollinger TK, Wilson GA, Coltman DW (2011) Broad and fine-scale genetic analysis of white-tailed deer populations: estimating the relative risk of chronic wasting disease spread. Evol Appl 4:116–131CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. DeYoung RW, Zamorano A, Mesenbrink BT, Campbell TA, LeLand BR, Moore GM, Honeycutt RL, Root JJ (2009) Landscape-genetic analysis of population structure in the Texas gray fox oral rabies vaccination zone. J Wildl Manag 73:1292–1299CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Epps CW, Wehausen JD, Bleich VC, Torres SG, Brashares JS (2007) Optimizing dispersal and corridor models using landscape genetics. J Appl Ecol 44:714–724Google Scholar
  13. Estoup A, Guillemaud T (2010) Reconstructing routes of invasion using genetic data: why, how and so what? Mol Ecol 19:4113–4130CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Estoup A, Baird SJE, Ray N, Currat M, Cornuet JM, Santos F, Beaumont MA, Excoffier L (2010) Combining genetic, historical and geographical data to reconstruct the dynamics of bioinvasions: application to the cane toad Bufo marinus. Mol Ecol Resour 10:886–901CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Ethier DM, Lafleche A, Swanson BJ, Nocera JJ, Kyle CJ (2012) Population subdivision and peripheral isolation in American badgers (Taxidea taxus) and implications for conservation planning in Canada. Can J Zool 90:630–639CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Folke C, Carpenter SR, Walker BH, Scheffer M, Elmqvist T, Gunderson LH, Holling CS (2004) Regime shifts, resilience and biodiversity in ecosystem management. Ann Rev Ecol Evol Syst 35:557–581CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Green DM (2005) Designatable units for status assessment of endangered species. Conserv Biol 19:1813–1820CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Gubbi S, Mukherjee K, Swaminath MH, Poornesha HC (2015) Providing more protected space for tigers Panthera tigris: a landscape conservation approach in the Western Ghats, southern India. Oryx. doi: 10.1017/S0030605314000751 Google Scholar
  19. Hagerty BE, Tracy CR (2010) Defining population structure for the Mojave desert tortoise. Conserv Genet 11:1795–1807CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hoban S, Hauffe H, Pérez-Espona S, Arntzen J, Bertorelle G, Bryja J, Frith K, Gaggiotti O, Galbusera P, Godoy J, Hoelzel AR, Nichols R, Primmer C, Russo I-R, Segelbacher G, Siegismund H, Sihvonen M, Vernesi C, Vilà C, Brufford M (2013) Bringing genetic diversity to the forefront of conservation policy and management. Conserv Genet Resour 5:593–598CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Howe EJ, Obbard ME, Kyle CJ (2013) Combining data from 43 standardized surveys to estimate densities of female American black bears by spatially explicit capture–recapture. Pop Ecol 55:595–607CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hunter ME, Mignucci-Giannoni AA, Tucker KP, King TL, Bonde RK, Gray BA, McGuire PM (2012) Puerto Rico and Florida manatees represent genetically distinct groups. Conserv Genet 13:1623–1635CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Johnson SR, Piaggio AJ, Neubaum M, Dunbar MR (2009) Using genetics to assess differentiation among raccoons in an area with variable rabies status in Alabama. Proc Wildl Damage Manag Conf 13:40–48Google Scholar
  24. Keller D, Holderegger R, van Strien MJ, Bolliger J (2015) How to make landscape genetics beneficial for conservation management? Conserv Genet 16:503–512CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Kelly AC, Mateus-Pinilla NE, Douglas M, Douglas M, Brown W, Ruiz MO, Killifer J, Shelton P, Beissel T, Novakofski J (2010) Utilizing disease surveillance to examine gene flow and dispersal in white-tailed deer. J Appl Ecol 47:1189–1198CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Koen EL, Bowman J, Murray DL, Wilson PJ (2014) Climate change reduces genetic diversity of Canada lynx at the trailing range edge. Ecography 37:754–762CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Manel S, Schwartz MK, Luikart G, Taberlet P (2003) Landscape genetics: combining landscape ecology and population genetics. Trends Ecol Evol 18:189–197CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. McRae BH, Beier P (2007) Circuit theory predicts gene flow in plant and animal populations. Proc Nat Acad Sci 104:19885–19890CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  29. Mee JA, Bernatchez L, Reist JD, Rogers SM, Taylor EB (2015) Identifying designatable units for intraspecific conservation prioritization: a hierarchical approach applied to the lake whitefish species complex (Coregonus spp.). Evol Appl 8:423–441CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  30. Morris AB, Baucom RS, Cruzan MB (2002) Stratified analysis of the soil seed bank in the cedar glade endemic Astragalus bibullatus: evidence for historical changes in genetic structure. Am J Bot 89:29–36CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Mumby PJ, Hastings A (2008) The impact of ecosystem connectivity on coral reef resilience. J Appl Ecol 45:854–862CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (2009) Framework for enhanced black bear management in Ontario. Accessed 18 Aug 2015
  33. Pimm SL, Dollar L, Bass OL Jr (2006) The genetic rescue of the Florida panther. Anim Conserv 9:115–122CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Proctor MF, Paetkau D, McLellan BN, Stenhouse GB, Kendall KC, Mace RD, Kasworm WF, Servheen C, Lausen CL, Gibeau ML, Wakkinen WL, Haroldson MA, Mowat G, Apps CD, Ciarniello LM, Barclay RMR, Boyce MS, Schwartz CC, Strobeck C (2012) Population fragmentation and inter-ecosystem movements of grizzly bears in western Canada and the northern United States. Wildl Monogr 180:1–46CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Ravetz JR (1987) Usable knowledge, usable ignorance: incomplete science with policy implications. Sci Comm 9:87–116CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Root JJ, Puskas RB, Fischer JW, Swope CB, Neubaum MA, Reeder SA, Piaggio AJ (2009) Landscape genetics of raccoons (Procyon lotor) associated with ridges and valleys of Pennsylvania: implications for oral rabies vaccination programs. Vector-Borne Zoonotic 9:583–588CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Saenz-Romero C, Guries RP, Monk AI (2001) Landscape genetic structure of Pinus banksiana: allozyme variation. Can J Bot 79:871–878Google Scholar
  38. Schwartz MK, Copeland JP, Anderson NJ, Squires JR, Inman RM, McKelvey KS, Pilgrim KL, Waits LP, Cushman SA (2009) Wolverine gene flow across a narrow climatic niche. Ecology 90:3222–3232CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  39. Segelbacher G, Cushman SA, Epperson BK, Fortin M-J, Francois O, Hardy OJ, Holderegger R, Taberlet P, Waits LP, Manel S (2010) Applications of landscape genetics in conservation biology: concepts and challenges. Conserv Genet 11:375–385CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Shafer ABA, Wolf JBW, Alves PC, Bergström L, Bruford MW, Brännström I, Colling G, Dalén L, De Meester L, Ekblom R, Fawcett KD, Fior S, Hajibabaei M, Hill JA, Hoezel AR, Hoglund J, Jensen EL, Krause J, Kristensen TN, Krützen M, McKay JK, Norman AJ, Ogden R, Österling EM, Ouborg NJ, Piccolo J, Popovic D, Primmer CR, Reed FA, Roumet M, Salmona J, Schenekar T, Schwartz MK, Segelbacher G, Senn H, Thaulow J, Valtonen M, Veale A, Vergeer P, Vijay N, Vilà C, Weissensteiner M, Wennerström L, Wheat CW, Zieliński P (2015) Genomics and the challenging translation into conservation practice. Trends Ecol Evol 30:78–87CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  41. Sharma S, Dutta T, Maldonado JE, Wood TC, Panwar HS, Seidensticker J (2013) Forest corridors maintain historical gene flow in a tiger metapopulation in the highlands of central India. Proc R Soc B 280:20131506CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  42. Spies I (2012) Landscape genetics reveals population subdivision in Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Pacific cod. Trans Am Fish Soc 141:1557–1573CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Tallmon DA, Luikart G, Waples R (2004) The alluring simplicity and complex reality of genetic rescue. Trends Ecol Evol 19:489–496CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  44. United States Department of Agriculture (2010) National rabies management program summary report. Accessed 15 July 2015
  45. United States Department of the Interior (2013) Desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii) translocation throughout the species range within the Southern Nevada District and Caliente Field Office, Nevada. DOI-BLM-NV-S010-2012-0097-EA, Las VegasGoogle Scholar
  46. United States Department of the Interior (2015) Soda Mountain solar project. Proposed plan amendment, BLM/CA/PL-2015/010+1793. Accessed 5 Jan 2016
  47. United States Fish and Wildlife Service (2010) Endangered and threatened wildlife and plants: 12-month finding on a petition to list the North American wolverine as endangered or threatened. Proposed Rule. Fed Regist 75:78030–78061Google Scholar
  48. United States Fish and Wildlife Service (2014) Stock assessment report. West Indian Manatee (Trichechus manatus). Puerto Rico stock (Antillean subspecies, Trichechus manatus manatus). USFWS, Caribbean Ecological Services Field Office, Boquerón, Puerto RicoGoogle Scholar
  49. United States Fish and Wildlife Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (1996) Policy regarding the recognition of distinct vertebrate population segments under the Endangered Species Act. Fed Regist 61:4721–4725Google Scholar
  50. Walsh DP, Samuel MD (2012) Factors affecting chronic wasting disease: a deer is not a deer is not a deer. In: Walsh DP (ed) Enhanced surveillance strategies for detecting and monitoring chronic wasting disease in free-ranging cervids, United States Geological Survey Open-File Report 2012–1036, pp 1–9Google Scholar
  51. Wasser SK, Clark WJ, Drori O, Kisamo ES, Mailand C, Mutayoba B, Stephens M (2008) Combating the illegal trade in African elephant ivory with DNA forensics. Conserv Biol 22:1065–1071CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Wildlife Research and Monitoring SectionOntario Ministry of Natural Resources and ForestryPeterboroughCanada
  2. 2.Environmental and Life Sciences Graduate ProgramTrent UniversityPeterboroughCanada

Personalised recommendations