Impact of Landscape Management on the Genetic Structure of Red Squirrel Populations

Science  21 Sep 2001:
Vol. 293, Issue 5538, pp. 2246-2248
DOI: 10.1126/science.1062574

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Landscape management practices that alter the degree of habitat fragmentation can significantly affect the genetic structure of animal populations. British red squirrels use “stepping stone” patches of habitat to move considerable distances through a fragmented habitat. Over the past few decades, the planting of a large conifer forest has connected groups of forest fragments in the north of England with those in southern Scotland. This “defragmentation” of the landscape has resulted in substantial genetic mixing of Scottish and Cumbrian genes in squirrel populations up to 100 kilometers from the site of the new forest. These results have implications for the conservation management of animal and plant species in fragmented landscapes such as those found in Britain.

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