Life history adaptations and spatial configuration of metapopulation networks allow certain species to persist in extreme fluctuating environments, yet long-term stability within these systems relies on the maintenance of linkage habitat. Degradation of such linkages in urban riverscapes can disrupt this dynamic in aquatic species, leading to increased extinction debt in local populations experiencing environment-related demographic flux. We used microsatellites and mtDNA to examine the effects of collapsed network structure in the endemic Santa Ana sucker Catostomus santaanae of southern California, a threatened species affected by natural flood-drought cycles, ‘boom-and-bust’ demography, hybridization, and presumed artificial transplantation. Our results show a predominance of drift-mediated processes in shaping population structure, and that reverse mechanisms for counterbalancing the genetic effects of these phenomena have dissipated with the collapse of dendritic connectivity. We use approximate Bayesian models to support two cases of artificial transplantation, and provide evidence that one of the invaded systems better represents the historic processes that maintained genetic variation within watersheds than any remaining drainages where C. santaanae is considered native. We further show that a stable dry gap in the northern range is preventing genetic dilution of pure C. santaanae persisting upstream of a hybrid assemblage involving a non-native sucker, and that local accumulation of genetic variation in the same drainage is influenced by position within the network. This work has important implications for declining species that have historically relied on dendritic metapopulation networks to maintain source-sink dynamics in phasic environments, but no longer possess this capacity in urban-converted landscapes.
Additional publication details
Loss of dendritic connectivity in southern California's urban riverscape facilitates decline of an endemic freshwater fish