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Genetic population structure of the sagebrush Brewer's sparrow, Spizella breweri breweri, in a fragmented landscape at the northern range periphery

Croteau, Emily K., Lougheed, Stephen C., Krannitz, Pamela G., Mahony, Nancy A., Walker, Brett L., Boag, Peter T.
Conservation genetics 2007 v.8 no.6 pp. 1453-1463
DNA, Spizella, breeding, climate change, coniferous forests, endangered species, gene flow, genetic techniques and protocols, genetic variation, habitat fragmentation, habitats, juveniles, landscapes, microsatellite repeats, migratory behavior, planning, population structure, songbirds
Assessing the genetic consequences of habitat fragmentation is a crucial step in conservation planning for species in endangered habitats. We tested for the impact of natural habitat fragmentation on gene flow and genetic diversity in seven northern breeding locations of the sagebrush Brewer's sparrow, Spizella breweri breweri. Genetic analyses using five highly variable DNA microsatellite loci suggested that individuals sampled within a sagebrush landscape fragmented by natural elements such as coniferous forest, comprise a single genetic population and that gene flow among them is unimpeded. We posit that juvenile dispersal links seemingly isolated breeding locales of this species, and discuss implications of our findings for conservation of migratory songbirds in the northern portion of their ranges in light of potential shifts in distribution due to climate change.