Linking life history to landscape for threatened species conservation in a multiuse region

Robyn E. Shaw*, Peter B. Spencer, Lesley A. Gibson, Judy A. Dunlop, Janine E. Kinloch, Karel Mokany, Margaret Byrne, Craig Moritz, Harriet Davie, Kenny J. Travouillon, Kym M. Ottewell

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    7 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    Landscape-scale conservation that considers metapopulation dynamics will be essential for preventing declines of species facing multiple threats to their survival. Toward this end, we developed a novel approach that combines occurrence records, spatial–environmental data, and genetic information to model habitat, connectivity, and patterns of genetic structure and link spatial attributes to underlying ecological mechanisms. Using the threatened northern quoll (Dasyurus hallucatus) as a case study, we applied this approach to address the need for conservation decision-making tools that promote resilient metapopulations of this threatened species in the Pilbara, Western Australia, a multiuse landscape that is a hotspot for biodiversity and mining. Habitat and connectivity were predicted by different landscape characteristics. Whereas habitat suitability was overwhelmingly driven by terrain ruggedness, dispersal was facilitated by proximity to watercourses. Although there is limited evidence for major physical barriers in the Pilbara, areas with high silt and clay content (i.e., alluvial and hardpan plains) showed high resistance to dispersal. Climate subtlety shaped distributions and patterns of genetic turnover, suggesting the potential for local adaptation. By understanding these spatial–environmental associations and linking them to life-history and metapopulation dynamics, we highlight opportunities to provide targeted species management. To support this, we have created habitat, connectivity, and genetic uniqueness maps for conservation decision-making in the region. These tools have the potential to provide a more holistic approach to conservation in multiuse landscapes globally.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article numbere13989
    JournalConservation Biology
    Volume37
    Issue number1
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Feb 2023

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