Using Noninvasive Genetics to Compare How a California Freeway Affects Gene Flow in a Disturbance-averse Versus a Disturbance-tolerant Species
Road networks may have profound impacts on the viability of wildlife populations. In particular, highways can be barriers to wildlife movement, leading to genetic diversity loss, inbreeding, and increased extinction risk for small, isolated populations on either side. The effects that highways have on wildlife movement can be variable, dependent on the unique dispersal behaviors of individual species. This study explores the hypothesis that highways will pose less of a barrier to coyotes, a species tolerant of human disturbance, than to gray fox, a species more sensitive to disturbance. The study uses landscape genetic tools to determine whether State Route 49 in Northern California is a barrier to coyote or gray fox movements.