Conservation Genetics

, Volume 19, Issue 2, pp 283–296 | Cite as

Landscape determinants of genetic differentiation, inbreeding and genetic drift in the hazel dormouse (Muscardinus avellanarius)

  • L. Bani
  • V. Orioli
  • G. Pisa
  • O. Dondina
  • S. Fagiani
  • E. Fabbri
  • E. Randi
  • A. Mortelliti
  • G. Sozio
Research Article


The dispersal process is crucial in determining the fate of populations over time, but habitat fragmentation limits or prevents it. Landscape genetic is an effective tool to assess the degree to which dispersal still occurs in fragmented landscapes. The purpose of this study was to investigate the landscape determinants of genetic differentiation in the hazel dormouse (Muscardinus avellanarius), a forest-dependent species of conservation concern. By comparing subpopulations in a continuous (SLR) and a fragmented (VTH) population, we (i) searched for the presence of Isolation-by-Resistance (IBR); (ii) estimated migration rates; (iii) evaluated the degree of inbreeding and genetic drift, and searched for their landscape determinants. We found an IBR effect in VTH, which heavily hindered the dispersal process. The overall number of migrants among VTH subpopulations was very low (1 per generation, compared to 15 in SLR), although a between-patch displacement of about 4 km along a well-structured hedgerow probably occurred. The inbreeding (F > 0.2 in most subpopulations) and the genetic drift (four out five subpopulations showed private alleles on several loci, with relatively high frequencies) are of particular concern in VTH. However, they were found to be limited in large patches or in patches connected by hedgerows with a high number of neighbouring patches. As a conservation strategy in the VTH landscape, characterized by small patches, we suggest that the dispersal process among subpopulations is enhanced to sustain a functional metapopulation. For this purpose, an effective ecological network should be created by enhancing the continuity and the internal features of hedgerows.


Isolation-by-resistance (IBR) Dispersal Landscape permeability Migration rates Private alleles Habitat fragmentation 



We are very grateful to Alice Mouton for providing us with the modified primer sequence of species-specific microsatellite markers of the hazel dormouse. We also thank Dr. Matteo Bonetti for language revision. This study was supported by the Research Fund of the University of Milano-Bicocca.

Supplementary material

10592_2017_999_MOESM1_ESM.docx (62 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 61 KB)


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Earth and Environmental SciencesUniversity of Milano-BicoccaMilanoItaly
  2. 2.Laboratorio di GeneticaIstituto Superiore per la Protezione e la Ricerca Ambientale (ISPRA)Ozzano EmiliaItaly
  3. 3.Department of Biotechnology, Chemistry and Environmental EngineeringAalborg UniversityAalborgDenmark
  4. 4.Department of Biology and Biotechnology “Charles Darwin”Sapienza University of RomeRomeItaly
  5. 5.Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Conservation BiologyUniversity of MaineOronoUSA

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