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Characterizing the post‐recolonization of Antechinus flavipes and its genetic implications in a production forest landscape
- Mijangos, Jose L., Pacioni, Carlo, Spencer, Peter B. S., Hillyer, Mia, Craig, Michael D.
- Restoration ecology 2017 v.25 no.5 pp. 738-748
- Antechinus flavipes, anthropogenic activities, biodiversity, ecological restoration, fauna, gene flow, genetic variation, grazing, habitats, landscapes, logging
- Production landscapes, where activities such as timber harvesting, grazing, and resource extraction take place, have considerably reduced the extent of natural habitats. The ecological restoration of these landscapes is, in many cases, the best remaining option to protect biodiversity. However, it is unclear whether restoration designed to avert biodiversity loss in restored landscapes can also maintain genetic diversity in recolonizing faunal populations. We employed core concepts in the field of population genetics to address questions of genetic diversity and gene flow in recolonizing faunal populations, using a small and vagile marsupial (Antechinus flavipes) inhabiting a mined landscape under restoration. We did not detect a disruption of gene flow that led to genetic substructuring, suggesting adequate levels of gene flow across the landscape. Parameters of neutral genetic diversity were high in groups of individuals sampled in both restored and unmined sites. Our results are encouraging as they indicate that ecological restoration has the potential to not just increase available habitat, but also to maintain genetic diversity. However, there is evidence that past anthropogenic disturbances affected the genetics of the population at the regional level. Although restoration at the local level may seem to be successful, it is necessary to manage populations at larger spatial scales than where restoration is conducted, and over long temporal scales, if genetic diversity is to be maintained in restored landscapes. The field of population genetics is an underused tool in ecological restoration yet can provide important insights into how well restoration achieves its goals.