Understanding the temporal and spatial scale at which habitat alteration impacts populations is important for conservation and management. Amphibians have declined more than other vertebrates, and pond-breeding species are particularly susceptible to habitat loss and fragmentation because they have terrestrial and aquatic life stages. One approach to management of pond-breeding species is protection of core upland habitat surrounding the breeding pond. We used genetic variation as an indicator of population status in a common amphibian species, spotted salamanders (Ambystoma maculatum), to determine how amount of suitable upland habitat relates to population status in the greater Charlotte, North Carolina, USA metropolitan area. We developed candidate models to evaluate the relative influence of historical and contemporary forested habitat availability on population genetic variation at two spatial scales of upland area (164 m and 2000 m) at four time intervals over the past seven decades (1938, 1978, 1993, 2005). We found that historical land cover best predicted contemporary allelic richness. Inbreeding coefficient and observed heterozygosity were not effectively predicted by forest cover at either spatial or temporal scales. Allelic richness was best predicted at the smaller spatial scale in the 1993 time interval. Predicting and understanding how future landscape configuration affects genetic variation of common and rare species is imperative for the conservation of amphibian and other wildlife populations.
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Funding was provided by the Department of Biology at Davidson College, National Science Foundation grant (DEB-0347326) to M.E.D., and the Department of Biological Sciences and McNair Scholars Program at Eastern Kentucky University.
Richter, Stephen C.; Price, Steve J.; Kross, Chelsea S.; Alexander, Jeremiah R.; and Dorcas, Michael E., "Upland Habitat Quality and Historic Landscape Composition Influence Genetic Variation of a Pond-Breeding Salamander" (2013). Forestry and Natural Resources Faculty Publications. 14.