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Traits-based approaches support the conservation relevance of landscape genetics

Mims, MerylC., Hartfield Kirk, EmilyE., Lytle, DavidA., Olden, JulianD.
Conservation genetics 2018 v.19 no.1 pp. 17-26
genetic relationships, landscape genetics, Southwestern United States
Calls for evaluating general principles in landscape genetics reflect a broader recognition that multispecies inference is a promising strategy for supporting conservation actions across wide-ranging taxonomies and geographies. Formal evaluation of frameworks for multispecies inference is critical to identify opportunities for generalization and to avoid misguided extrapolation that results in ineffective conservation and management efforts. Traits-based approaches are now widely recognized as useful in addressing knowledge gaps where species-specific data may not be available or feasible to obtain. Here we present a case for the application of traits-based approaches in landscape genetics to improve conservation application. We discuss the fundamental theoretical framework and growing empirical evidence supporting the utility of traits-based approaches in landscape genetics, and we highlight an example of the implementation of traits to predict landscape genetic relationships for a range of aquatic taxa native to the southwestern United States. Finally, we discuss opportunities, challenges, and future directions of using traits to characterize landscape genetic relationships. Ultimately, traits-based approaches can help address growing calls for the development and testing of general principles in landscape genetics in order to improve application to conservation challenges.