The influence of habitat fragmentation on genetic diversity of a rare bird species that commonly faces environmental fluctuations
|Canales-Delgadillo, Julio Cesar
|EXTINCTION RISK; GENOTYPING ERRORS; LANDSCAPE; MICROSATELLITE LOCI; Ornithology; POPULATION-STRUCTURE; SPARROW; SUCCESS; Zoology
|JOURNAL OF AVIAN BIOLOGY
Habitat loss and fragmentation is one of the main causes of biodiversity loss. Rare species are generally thought to be more sensitive to habitat fragmentation than common ones as small populations become even smaller. We did a population genetic study on a rare bird, the Worthen's sparrow Spizella wortheni which is endemic to semi-arid and arid regions of northeast Mexico. Its population numbers suffer greatly from the transformation of grassland into farmland that leads to a patchy distribution with locally small population sizes. Our data show that its genetic diversity is nevertheless high, few to no differentiation between study localities was found, and gene flow was high. Although we can not exclude that is too early to see an impact on the genetic level, we think that these results might be explained by the species biology: like many other birds living in arid areas, the Worthen's sparrow has a nomadic life style; depending on local conditions individuals flexibly move between areas. This behavior could enhance their ability to find suitable habitat patches in a fragmented landscape. Our results imply that nomadic behavior, which is an adaptation to high temporal variability in environmental conditions, may make species more resilient to spatial variability caused by habitat fragmentation. This insight contributes to identifying common factors such as nomadism that predict a species sensitivity to habitat fragmentation.
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