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Landscape genetic analyses reveal fine-scale effects of forest fragmentation in an insular tropical bird.

ABSTRACT

Within the framework of landscape genetics, resistance surface modelling is particularly relevant to explicitly test competing hypotheses about landscape effects on gene flow. To investigate how fragmentation of tropical forest affects population connectivity in a forest-specialist bird species, we optimized resistance surfaces without a priori specification, using least-cost (LCP) or resistance (IBR) distances. We implemented a two-step procedure in order i) to objectively define the landscape thematic resolution (level of detail in classification scheme to describe landscape variables) and spatial extent (area within the landscape boundaries) and then ii) to test the relative role of several landscape features (elevation, roads, land cover) in genetic differentiation in the Plumbeous Warbler (Setophaga plumbea). We detected a small-scale reduction of gene flow mainly driven by land cover, with a negative impact of the non-forest matrix on landscape functional connectivity. However, matrix components did not equally constrain gene flow, as their conductivity increased with increasing structural similarity with forest habitat: urban areas and meadows had the highest resistance values whereas agricultural areas had intermediate resistance values. Our results revealed a higher performance of IBR compared to LCP in explaining gene flow, reflecting sub-optimal movements across this human-modified landscape, challenging the common use of LCP to design habitat corridors and advocating for a broader use of circuit theory modelling. Finally, our results emphasize the need for an objective definition of landscape scales (landscape extent and thematic resolution) and highlight potential pitfalls associated with parameterization of resistance surfaces. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.