Hierarchical spatial genetic structure in a distinct population segment of greater sage-grouse

Conservation Genetics
By: , and 



Greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) within the Bi-State Management Zone (area along the border between Nevada and California) are geographically isolated on the southwestern edge of the species’ range. Previous research demonstrated that this population is genetically unique, with a high proportion of unique mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) haplotypes and with significant differences in microsatellite allele frequencies compared to populations across the species’ range. As a result, this population was considered a distinct population segment (DPS) and was recently proposed for listing as threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. A more comprehensive understanding of the boundaries of this genetically unique population (where the Bi-State population begins) and an examination of genetic structure within the Bi-State is needed to help guide effective management decisions. We collected DNA from eight sampling locales within the Bi-State (N = 181) and compared those samples to previously collected DNA from the two most proximal populations outside of the Bi-State DPS, generating mtDNA sequence data and amplifying 15 nuclear microsatellites. Both mtDNA and microsatellite analyses support the idea that the Bi-State DPS represents a genetically unique population, which has likely been separated for thousands of years. Seven mtDNA haplotypes were found exclusively in the Bi-State population and represented 73 % of individuals, while three haplotypes were shared with neighboring populations. In the microsatellite analyses both STRUCTURE and FCA separate the Bi-State from the neighboring populations. We also found genetic structure within the Bi-State as both types of data revealed differences between the northern and southern part of the Bi-State and there was evidence of isolation-by-distance. STRUCTURE revealed three subpopulations within the Bi-State consisting of the northern Pine Nut Mountains (PNa), mid Bi-State, and White Mountains (WM) following a north–south gradient. This genetic subdivision within the Bi-State is likely the result of habitat loss and fragmentation that has been exacerbated by recent human activities and the encroachment of singleleaf pinyon (Pinus monophylla) and juniper (Juniperus spp.) trees. While genetic concerns may be only one of many priorities for the conservation and management of the Bi-State greater sage-grouse, we believe that they warrant attention along with other issues (e.g., quality of sagebrush habitat, preventing future loss of habitat). Management actions that promote genetic connectivity, especially with respect to WM and PNa, may be critical to the long-term viability of the Bi-State DPS.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Hierarchical spatial genetic structure in a distinct population segment of greater sage-grouse
Series title Conservation Genetics
DOI 10.1007/s10592-014-0618-8
Volume 15
Issue 6
Year Published 2014
Language English
Publisher Springer
Contributing office(s) Fort Collins Science Center
Description 13 p.
First page 1299
Last page 1311
Country United States
State California, Nevada
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
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