Dispersal responses override density effects on genetic diversity during post-disturbance succession

Annabel Smith, Erin Landguth, Christopher Bull, Sam Banks, Michael Gardner, Don Driscoll

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    20 Citations (Scopus)


    Dispersal fundamentally influences spatial population dynamics but little is known about dispersal variation in landscapes where spatial heterogeneity is generated predominantly by disturbance and succession. We tested the hypothesis that habitat succession following fire inhibits dispersal, leading to declines over time in genetic diversity in the early successional gecko Nephrurus stellatus. We combined a landscape genetics field study with a spatially explicit simulation experiment to determine whether successional patterns in genetic diversity were driven by habitat-mediated dispersal or demographic effects (declines in population density leading to genetic drift). Initial increases in genetic structure following fire were likely driven by direct mortality and rapid population expansion. Subsequent habitat succession increased resistance to gene flow and decreased dispersal and genetic diversity in N. stellatus. Simulated changes in population density alone did not reproduce these results. Habitat-mediated reductions in dispersal, combined with changes in population density, were essential to drive the field-observed patterns. Our study provides a framework for combining demographic, movement and genetic data with simulations to discover the relative influence of demography and dispersal on patterns of landscape genetic structure. Our results suggest that succession can inhibit connectivity among individuals, opening new avenues for understanding how disturbance regimes influence spatial population dynamics.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number20152934
    Pages (from-to)Art: 20152934
    Number of pages10
    JournalProceedings of The Royal Society of London Series B: Biological Sciences
    Issue number1827
    Publication statusPublished - 30 Mar 2016


    • Demographic population model
    • Density dependence
    • Fire
    • Habitat fragmentation
    • Landscape genetics
    • Movement ecology


    Dive into the research topics of 'Dispersal responses override density effects on genetic diversity during post-disturbance succession'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this