Eddie van Etten
ORCID : 0000-0002-7311-1794
ORCID : 0000-0003-2475-2963
David L Field
ORCID : 0000-0002-4014-8478
Biodiversity and Conservation
School of Science / Centre for Ecosystem Management
Edith Cowan University - Open Access Support Scheme 2021
Holsworth Wildlife Research Endowment / The Ecological Society of Australia / Edith Cowan University / Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions, Western Australia
Understanding the timescales that shape spatial genetic structure is pivotal to ascertain the impact of habitat fragmentation on the genetic diversity and reproductive viability of long-lived plant populations. Combining genetic and ecological information with current and past fragmentation conditions allows the identification of the main drivers important in shaping population structure and declines in reproduction, which is crucial for informing conservation strategies. Using historic aerial photographs, we defined the past fragmentation conditions for the shrub Conospermum undulatum, a species now completely embedded in an urban area. We explored the impact of current and past conditions on its genetic layout and assessed the effects of genetic and environmental factors on its reproduction. The historically high structural connectivity was evident in the genetics of the species. Despite the current intense fragmentation, we found similar levels of genetic diversity across populations and a weak spatial genetic structure. Historical connectivity was negatively associated with genetic differentiation among populations and positively related to within-population genetic diversity. Variation partitioning of reproductive performance explained ~ 66% of the variance, showing significant influences for genetic (9%), environmental (15%), and combined (42%) fractions. Our study highlights the importance of considering the historical habitat dynamics when investigating fragmentation consequences in long-lived plants. A detailed characterization of fragmentation from 1953 has shown how low levels of genetic fixation are due to extensive gene flow through the non-fragmented landscape. Moreover, knowledge of the relationships between genetic and environmental variation and reproduction can help to implement effective conservation strategies, particularly in highly dynamic landscapes.
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