Landscape genetics for the empirical assessment of resistance surfaces: the European pine marten (Martes martes) as a target-species of a regional ecological network

PLoS One. 2014 Oct 16;9(10):e110552. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0110552. eCollection 2014.


Coherent ecological networks (EN) composed of core areas linked by ecological corridors are being developed worldwide with the goal of promoting landscape connectivity and biodiversity conservation. However, empirical assessment of the performance of EN designs is critical to evaluate the utility of these networks to mitigate effects of habitat loss and fragmentation. Landscape genetics provides a particularly valuable framework to address the question of functional connectivity by providing a direct means to investigate the effects of landscape structure on gene flow. The goals of this study are (1) to evaluate the landscape features that drive gene flow of an EN target species (European pine marten), and (2) evaluate the optimality of a regional EN design in providing connectivity for this species within the Basque Country (North Spain). Using partial Mantel tests in a reciprocal causal modeling framework we competed 59 alternative models, including isolation by distance and the regional EN. Our analysis indicated that the regional EN was among the most supported resistance models for the pine marten, but was not the best supported model. Gene flow of pine marten in northern Spain is facilitated by natural vegetation, and is resisted by anthropogenic landcover types and roads. Our results suggest that the regional EN design being implemented in the Basque Country will effectively facilitate gene flow of forest dwelling species at regional scale.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biodiversity*
  • Conservation of Natural Resources
  • Ecosystem*
  • Mustelidae / genetics*
  • Mustelidae / physiology
  • Spain

Grant support

This study has been funded by the Basque Government through the Research group on “Systematics, Biogeography and Population Dynamics” (Ref. IT317-10; GIC10/76; IT575/13) and by the University of the Basque Country (UPV-EHU) and the Department of Environment, Territorial Planning, Agriculture and Fisheries (Basque Government) through IKT S.A under the University-Enterprise research program (Ref. UE07/02). Ruiz-González holds a Post doc fellowship awarded by the Dept. of Education Universities and Research of the Basque Government (Ref. DKR-2012-64). Several samples analysed in this study have been obtained in the framework of different carnivore surveys funded by regional or national administrations (Spanish Ministry of Environment, Regional Governments of Navarre and Aragon, Alava Provincial Council). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.