Many alpine species are under threat from global climate change, as their geographic ranges become increasingly fragmented and unsuitable. Understanding rates and determinants of gene flow among such fragmented populations, over historical as well as recent timescales, can help to identify populations under threat. It is also important to clarify the degree to which loss of local populations reduces overall genetic diversity within the taxon. The endangered Blue Mountains Water Skink (Eulamprus leuraensis) is restricted to <40 small swamps in montane south-eastern Australia. Our analyses of seven microsatellite loci of 241 animals from 13 populations show strong geographic structure, with major genetic divergence even between populations separated by <0.5 km. Dispersal between populations is scarce, and appears to involve mostly males. Our analyses suggest potential recent bottleneck events in all the identified populations, and lower genetic diversity and population size parameter at lower-elevation sites than at higher-elevation sites. Management of this endangered taxon thus needs to treat most populations separately, because of their genetic distinctiveness and low rates of genetic exchange.
- altitudinal gradient
- spatial structure