Presentation Abstract

Title: Isolation and fragmentation in sage-grouse; genetic fingerprints at the crime scene.
Session Title: Prairie Grouse Management: Doomed to Repeat the Past?
Session Number: 65
Session Time: Tuesday, Oct 16, 2012, 1:30 PM - 5:20 PM
Presentation Time: Tuesday, Oct 16, 2012, 4:00 PM - 4:20 PM
Presentation Number: 8
Author(s): Sara Oyler-McCance, 1 Contact:
Abstract Body: Habitat loss and fragmentation have left both species of sage-grouse with a number of populations that are small and isolated from larger, more contiguous portions of the range. Substantial impacts from recent energy development, other anthropogenic land use changes, and climate warming may also further fragment and isolate populations of both species. Isolation and fragmentation can lead to reduced levels of genetic variation, and although the importance of maintaining substantial genetic variation in small populations is debated, most agree that genetic variation is relevant to the health and viability of populations and that it should be addressed and monitored in management plans. One of the best examples of inbreeding depression in small, isolated populations has been documented in the sage-grouse cousin, Greater Prairie-Chicken. In a peripheral population of Greater Prairie-Chickens in Illinois researchers showed that fertility and hatching success were reduced due to a bottleneck caused by habitat loss. Lessons learned from this study of Greater Prairie-Chicken have been applied to sage-grouse. Some sage-grouse populations have experienced similar isolation and reduction in population size resulting from the loss of habitat and, as a result, have been involved in translocation programs to increase genetic variability and augment populations. The future of sage-grouse genetic research is being driven by improved genetic techniques and expanded applications of habitat and anthropogenic landscape data, which provide the basis for landscape genetic analyses. Such methods can be used to identify how landscape features and anthropogenic stresses influence gene flow and connectivity among populations. Landscape genetic approaches have been applied to prairie-chicken populations and are currently being conducted on both species of sage-grouse. This information can potentially inform the prioritization of habitats for conservation and strategies to mitigate impacts from climate change and energy development.

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