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Title: Urbanization reduces gene flow but not genetic diversity of stream salamander populations in the New York City metropolitan area

Natural landscape heterogeneity and barriers resulting from urbanization can reduce genetic connectivity between populations. The evolutionary, demographic, and ecological effects of reduced connectivity may lead to population isolation and ultimately extinction. Alteration to the terrestrial and aquatic environment caused by urban influence can affect gene flow, specifically for stream salamanders who depend on both landscapes for survival and reproduction. To examine how urbanization affects a relatively common stream salamander species, we compared genetic connectivity ofEurycea bislineata(northern two‐lined salamander) populations within and between streams in an urban, suburban, and rural habitat around the New York City (NYC) metropolitan area. We report reduced genetic connectivity between streams within the urban landscape found to correspond with potential barriers to gene flow, that is, areas with more dense urbanization (roadways, industrial buildings, and residential housing). The suburban populations also exhibited areas of reduced connectivity correlated with areas of greater human land use and greater connectivity within a preserve protected from development. Connectivity was relatively high among neighboring rural streams, but a major roadway corresponded with genetic breaks even though the habitat contained more connected green space overall. Despite greater human disturbance across the landscape, urban and suburban salamander populations maintained comparable levels of genetic diversity to their rural counterparts. Yet small effective population size in the urban habitats yielded a high probability of loss of heterozygosity due to genetic drift in the future. In conclusion, urbanization impacted connectivity among stream salamander populations where its continual influence may eventually hinder population persistence for this native species in urban habitats.

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Journal Name:
Evolutionary Applications
Medium: X Size: p. 99-116
["p. 99-116"]
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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