Traits-based approaches support the conservation relevance of landscape genetics
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Calls for evaluating general principles in landscape genetics reflect a broader recognition that multispecies inference is a promising strategy for supporting conservation actions across wide-ranging taxonomies and geographies. Formal evaluation of frameworks for multispecies inference is critical to identify opportunities for generalization and to avoid misguided extrapolation that results in ineffective conservation and management efforts. Traits-based approaches are now widely recognized as useful in addressing knowledge gaps where species-specific data may not be available or feasible to obtain. Here we present a case for the application of traits-based approaches in landscape genetics to improve conservation application. We discuss the fundamental theoretical framework and growing empirical evidence supporting the utility of traits-based approaches in landscape genetics, and we highlight an example of the implementation of traits to predict landscape genetic relationships for a range of aquatic taxa native to the southwestern United States. Finally, we discuss opportunities, challenges, and future directions of using traits to characterize landscape genetic relationships. Ultimately, traits-based approaches can help address growing calls for the development and testing of general principles in landscape genetics in order to improve application to conservation challenges.
KeywordsLandscape genetics Conservation genetics Traits-based approaches Multispecies inference Focal traits Trait databases
This research was funded by the Department of Defense Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (RC-1724). Additional funding was provided by a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship (Grant No. DGE-0718124) to MCM and the H. Mason Keeler Endowed Professorship (School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, University of Washington) to JDO. We thank Erin Landguth and the reviewers for providing helpful comments that greatly improved this manuscript.
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