Spatial genetic patterns indicate mechanism and consequences of large carnivore cohabitation within development

Ecology and Evolution
Michael J EvansLori S Eggert


Patterns of human development are shifting from concentrated housing toward sprawled housing intermixed with natural land cover, and wildlife species increasingly persist in close proximity to housing, roads, and other anthropogenic features. These associations can alter population dynamics and evolutionary trajectories. Large carnivores increasingly occupy urban peripheries, yet the ecological consequences for populations established entirely within urban and exurban landscapes are largely unknown. We applied a spatial and landscape genetics approach, using noninvasively collected genetic data, to identify differences in black bear spatial genetic patterns across a rural-to-urban gradient and quantify how development affects spatial genetic processes. We quantified differences in black bear dispersal, spatial genetic structure, and migration between differing levels of development within a population primarily occupying areas with >6 houses/km2 in western Connecticut. Increased development disrupted spatial genetic structure, and we found an association between increased housing densities and longer dispersal. We also found evidence that roads limited gene flow among bears in more rural areas, yet had no effect among bears in ...Continue Reading


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