Where Mountain Lions Traverse: Insights from Landscape Genetics in Southwestern United States and Northwestern Mexico
KeywordsGeographic Information Systems
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractThe projected growth in human population, rapid urbanization, and expansion of structures like highways and canals pose a major threat to the future survival of wildlife, particularly large terrestrial mammals. In many cases, wild animal populations have been restricted to fragmented habitat islands due to anthropogenic developments, endangering them to local extinction. Current and future wildlife conservation and management strategies are leading to the implementation of mitigation measures such as creation of wildlife habitat corridors. In this light, novel and interdisciplinary research methods such as approaches in the field of landscape genetics are proving to be increasingly useful and necessary for assessing the status of wildlife populations and furthering efficacy of conservation programs and management efforts. In this 5-year research study, I review literature in the field of landscape genetics, highlighting studies and their applications toward wildlife conservation over the past decade (2005-2014). I then use a landscape genetic approach to understand the potential impact of natural and human-made barriers in and around the northern Sonoran Desert on one of the widest-ranging mammals in the world, the mountain lion (Puma concolor). I employ recently developed genetic tools to assess the current population genetic status of mountain lions in this region and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) tools to relate observations to landscape features through interpretive maps. I further investigate the utility of GIS and expert-based models in connectivity conservation and suggest validating them with information on genetic relatedness and functional connectivity among mountain lions. Lastly, in many parts of this document, I emphasize the use of these methods and data sharing in conservation planning as well as wildlife management.
Degree ProgramGraduate College