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Genetic diversity and structure related to expansion history and habitat isolation: stone marten populating rural-urban habitats

Abstract : Background: Population genetic diversity and structure are determined by past and current evolutionary processes, among which spatially limited dispersal, genetic drift, and shifts in species distribution boundaries have major effects. In most wildlife species, environmental modifications by humans often lead to contraction of species' ranges and/or limit their dispersal by acting as environmental barriers. However, in species well adapted to anthropogenic habitat or open landscapes, human induced environmental changes may facilitate dispersal and range expansions. In this study, we analysed whether isolation by distance and deforestation, among other environmental features, promotes or restricts dispersal and expansion in stone marten (Martes foina) populations. Results: We genotyped 298 martens from eight sites at twenty-two microsatellite loci to characterize the genetic variability, population structure and demographic history of stone martens in Poland. At the landscape scale, limited genetic differentiation between sites in a mosaic of urban, rural and forest habitats was mostly influenced by isolation by distance. Statistical clustering and multivariate analyses showed weak genetic structuring with two to four clusters and a high rate of gene flow between them. Stronger genetic differentiation was detected for one stone marten population (NE1) located inside a large forest complex. Genetic differentiation between this site and all others was 20% higher than between other sites separated by similar distances. The genetic uniqueness index of NE1 was also twofold higher than in other sites. Past demographic history analyses showed recent expansion of this species in north-eastern Poland. A decrease in genetic diversity from south to north, and MIGRAINE analyses indicated the direction of expansion of stone marten. Conclusions: Our results showed that two processes, changes in species distribution boundaries and limited dispersal associated with landscape barriers, affect genetic diversity and structure in stone marten. Analysis of local barriers that reduced dispersal and large scale analyses of genetic structure and demographic history highlight the importance of isolation by distance and forest cover for the past colonization of central Europe by stone marten. This confirmed the hypothesis that human-landscape changes (deforestation) accelerated stone marten expansion, to which climate warming probably has also been contributing over the last few decades.
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Anna Wereszczuk, Raphaël Leblois, Andrzej Zalewski. Genetic diversity and structure related to expansion history and habitat isolation: stone marten populating rural-urban habitats. BMC Ecology, BioMed Central, 2017, 17, ⟨10.1186/s12898-017-0156-6⟩. ⟨hal-02625453⟩

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