RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN AMOUNT OF SUITABLE HABITAT AND LAND STATUS AND GENETICS IN A WIDE-RANGING LARGE CARNIVORE
Justin Dellinger; CA Dept. of Fish & Wildlife; 1701 Nimbus Rd., Suite D, Rancho Cordova, CA, 95670; (916) 261-3610; justin.dellinger@wildlife.ca.gov; Kyle D. Gustafson, Steven G. Torres
Considering ecological processes like habitat use and evolutionary processes like population genetic structure in tandem can increase understanding of current population status and predict future trends in population structure. Building on previous analyses, we examined the relationship between habitat use and population genetic structure of mountain lions (Puma concolor) in California. Our results indicate that amount of suitable habitat is positively associated with improved population genetic structure. Amount of suitable that is protected had further increased positive impacts on population genetic structure. Our results suggest that areas with ¡Ý10,000 km2 of contiguous suitable habitat may be large enough in size to allow mountain lions to maintain evolutionary-stable levels of alleles. Five of the nine geographic genetically clustered mountain lion populations in California fall below this habitat threshold; and two of these five populations lack connectivity to nearby populations. Increasing amount of suitable habitat protected, and/or increasing connectivity, might ensure these small and/or isolated populations persist into the future. Our results demonstrate that amount and status of suitable habitat influence genetic integrity of large carnivores like mountain lions and likely determines intensity of conservation efforts required to maintain genetic integrity of large carnivore populations and ensure long-term population viability therein.
Ecology and Conservation of Mammals III