Landscape resistance influences effective dispersal of endangered golden lion tamarins within the Atlantic Forest
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Habitat fragmentation threatens tropical rainforests, which can significantly hinder dispersal in species such as arboreal primates. For conservation actions to be effective there must be an understanding of how landscape structure and biological traits shape dispersal. We assessed the effects of landscape, sex and population management (reintroductions and translocations) on gene flow of Leontopithecus rosalia, an endangered arboreal primate living in highly fragmented forests of Brazil. We genotyped 201 individuals using 14 microsatellite loci to answer three questions: (1) How far does L. rosalia disperse? (2) Is dispersal sex-biased? (3) What are the relative contributions of population management, distance, roads and landscape resistance to genetic kinship? We hypothesized that (1) gene flow decrease between more distant sites; (2) males disperse more than females; and (3) management and land-cover resistance (i.e. landscape resistance) are the variables that most influence genetic kinship. We found positive spatial population-structure up to 8 km. The spatial structure was similar between females and males suggesting that they equally contribute to gene flow. Management and landscape resistance best explained genetic kinship, showing that different land-cover types affect the dispersal at different degrees of landscape permeability. We advocate that maintaining more permeable landscapes is essential to ensure dispersal and gene flow of arboreal mammals. Conservation measures in tropical rainforests must take into account not only the habitat amount, but also the degree at which each land use – roads, urban areas, agriculture, pasture, isolated trees, and stepping stones – facilitates or impedes the species dispersal.
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