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Landscape genetics: making the invisible visible
Landscape genetics combines landscape ecology and population genetics, enabling connections to be made between the dispersal of plants and animals on the one hand and landscape elements that act as barriers or corridors on the other. Landscape genetics therefore provides a relevant basis for the planning and implementation of nature conservation measures.
Landscape genetics is a new field of research that combines the methods of population genetics with those of landscape ecology. It allows the investigation of processes which are generally not visible and are therefore difficult to observe. For example, the connectivity of populations in a fragmented landscape can be examined:
In many cases, investigating such questions is difficult using conventional methods because they only measure the dispersal of animals and plants in a indirect way. For instance, the dispersal of animals can be investigated using capture-recapture methods, in which animals are captured and marked and then recaptured after a certain time period. This allows researchers to determine how far an animal has moved and where it has travelled to. However, these methods can usually only be used across small areas. By contrast, genetic methods allow dispersal to be measured across an entire landscape, which is the level at which planning and implementation of nature conservation measures take place.
Landscape genetics is therefore becoming increasingly important in research as well as in application. It contributes to: