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Gunnison sage-grouse predicted gene flow (conductance) surfaces, Colorado, United States

April 21, 2023

Habitat fragmentation and degradation impacts an organism's ability to navigate the landscape, ultimately resulting in decreased gene flow and increased extinction risk. Understanding how landscape composition impacts gene flow (i.e., connectivity) and interacts with scale is essential to conservation decision-making. We used a landscape genetics approach implementing a recently developed statistical model based on the generalized Wishart probability distribution to identify the primary landscape features affecting gene flow and estimate the degree to which each component influences connectivity for Gunnison sage-grouse (Centrocercus minimus). We were interested in two spatial scales: among distinct populations rangewide and among leks (i.e., breeding grounds) within the largest population, Gunnison Basin. Populations and leks are nested within a landscape fragmented by rough terrain and anthropogenic features, although requisite sagebrush habitat is more contiguous within populations. Our best fit models for each scale confirm the importance of sagebrush habitat in connectivity, although the important sagebrush characteristics differ. For Gunnison Basin, taller shrubs and higher quality nesting habitat were the primary drivers of connectivity, while more sagebrush cover and less conifer cover facilitated connectivity rangewide. Our findings support previous assumptions that Gunnison sage-grouse range contraction is largely the result of habitat loss and degradation. Importantly, we report direct estimates of resistance for landscape components that can be used to create resistance surfaces for prioritization of specific locations for conservation or management (i.e., habitat preservation, restoration, or development) or as we demonstrated, can be combined with simulation techniques to predict impacts to connectivity from potential management actions.

Publication Year 2023
Title Gunnison sage-grouse predicted gene flow (conductance) surfaces, Colorado, United States
DOI 10.5066/P9AJV5IG
Authors Shawna J Zimmerman, Cameron Aldridge, Mevin B Hooten, Sara J Oyler-McCance
Product Type Data Release
Record Source USGS Digital Object Identifier Catalog
USGS Organization Fort Collins Science Center