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Population structure and genetic diversity of greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) in fragmented landscapes at the northern edge of their range

Bush, Krista L., Dyte, Christopher K., Moynahan, Brendan J., Aldridge, Cameron L., Sauls, Heather S., Battazzo, Angela M., Walker, Brett L., Doherty, Kevin E., Tack, Jason, Carlson, John, Eslinger, Dale, Nicholson, Joel, Boyce, Mark S., Naugle, David E., Paszkowski, Cynthia A., Coltman, David W.
Conservation genetics 2011 v.12 no.2 pp. 527-542
Centrocercus urophasianus, birds, genetic variation, habitats, landscapes, microsatellite repeats, population structure, rivers, valleys, wildlife, Alberta, Montana, Saskatchewan, Wyoming
Range-edge dynamics and anthropogenic fragmentation are expected to impact patterns of genetic diversity, and understanding the influence of both factors is important for effective conservation of threatened wildlife species. To examine these factors, we sampled greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) from a declining, fragmented region at the northern periphery of the species’ range and from a stable, contiguous core region. We genotyped 2,519 individuals at 13 microsatellite loci from 104 leks in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Montana, and Wyoming. Birds from northern Montana, Alberta, and Saskatchewan were identified as a single population that exhibited significant isolation by distance, with the Milk River demarcating two subpopulations. Both subpopulations exhibited high genetic diversity with no evidence that peripheral regions were genetically depauperate or highly structured. However, river valleys and a large agricultural region were significant barriers to dispersal. Leks were also composed primarily of non-kin, rejecting the idea that leks form because of male kin association. Northern Montana sage-grouse are maintaining genetic connectivity in fragmented and northern peripheral habitats via dispersal through and around various forms of fragmentation.