Research objectives and content
In conservation biology, genetic and demographic structure of populations are assumed to be key factors affecting long term population persistence probabilities. In metapopulations, local extinction of demes by stochastic demographic processes has to be balanced by colonisation from other demes to avoid global extinction. Intuitively, such demographic equilibrium systems of metapopulations will reach a state of desequilibrium if properly disturbed. In NE Scotland, water voles Arvicola terrestris are already local extinct from areas along main stem of rivers inhabited by the American mink. The American mink has expanded over large areas in Britain since escapes from farms in the 1960s. Water voles retreat as the mink expand, and there is no coexistence of the two species in NE Scotland. The objective of this study is to see how metapopulations fragmented due to mink predation are influenced. Metapopulations along the river Ythan that have been influenced by mink since 1970 are compared by metapopulations in the headwaters of Dee not yet influenced by mink. Exhaustive trapping of animals followed by analyses of gene variability (using already developed genetic markers) within and between metapopulations from both systems will allow us to identify at which scale effective dispersal operates in equilibrium metapopulations, and assess the impact of recent desequilibrium on the genetic structure.
Training content (objective, benefit and expected impact)
The applicant Dr. Jon Aars will benefit from expanded knowledge on methodology in molecular genetics and in analytical population genetics. The results from the project will become available through publications by the research group.
Links with industry / industrial relevance (22)