Using landscape genetic techniques to understand the impact of habitat fragmentation on the dispersal of insect pollinators (Diptera: Syrphidae)

Abstract

Myathropa floreaPollinators provide a key ecosystem service and their importance for food security is widely acknowledged. Alarmingly though, wild pollinators are declining at local, regional, and global scales, primarily as a consequence of human activities. While land-use change is often seen as a main driver of the problem, there is a considerable lack of knowledge on the responses of invertebrate pollinators to the resulting habitat loss and homogenisation. For instance, while hoverflies (Diptera: Syrphidae) are the most important pollinators besides bees, little is known about their dispersal in general and the effects of landscape fragmentation on their dispersal in particular. The overall objective of the proposed study is therefore to use microsatellite genotyping and landscape genetics to analyse the functional connectivity of typical Luxembourg and Western European landscapes from the viewpoint of hoverflies. We aim to understand whether urbanisation and the structural diversity of agro-ecosystems have an impact on hoverfly dispersal and which landscape features facilitate or hinder gene flow. The approach will be conducted for four target species in three urbanised areas and two pairs of rural areas with different degrees of habitat diversity. Furthermore, we will test whether hoverfly size and habitat specialisation may influence the impact of habitat fragmentation on the flies. Finally, we aim to test the validity of extrapolating connectivity models to larger or different study regions. The proposed project has the potential to make an important contribution in the design of effective habitat management practices for hoverflies, if not insect pollinators in general, since we propose to empirically test dispersal capabilities in different landscapes, taking different biological and ecological characteristics into account.

Project status

  • Project granted by the granted by Fonds National de la Recherche Luxembourg. Duration: 3 years (01.02.2021 – 31.01.2024).
  • Host institution: Fondation faune-flore @ Centre de recherche scientifique, Musée national d’histoire naturelle.
  • Postdoctoral Researcher to be hired.

Contact

National Museum of Natural History (MNHNL)
Research centre
Life science department
25, rue Münster
L-2160 Luxembourg

Publications

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Using genetic methods to understand the movement ecology of the crested newt (Triturus cristatus) in Luxembourg

Abstract

The Crested Newt (Triturus cristatus); male specimen in "mating dress" under water.Populations of the pond-breeding Northern crested newt (Triturus cristatus) have severely declined in Luxembourg during the last century. The species is listed on Annexes II and IV of the EU Habitats Directive (Council of the European Communities, 1992) and EU member states must therefore ensure the maintenance or, where appropriate, the re-establishment of a favourable state of conservation of the species’ and its habitats. In order to maintain the species’ metapopulation dynamics, more than 350 artificial freshwater bodies have been created in the west and southwest of the country since 1993. This conservation measure lacked a certain degree of effectiveness as fewer than 75% of the engineered ponds have been colonized by the target species. There is thus an urgent need to generate an evidence-based understanding of the movement ecology of crested newts in the Luxembourg context and to design and place engineered ponds appropriately. We present three work packages that will operate at different spatial scales and that will use population and landscape genetic methods to identify landscape factors influencing newt dispersal and population connectivity. Specifically, we will i) analyse the population genetic structure of the crested newt across Luxembourg in order to identify isolated populations and environmental factors that hinder exchange between populations, ii) model landscape connectivity at the regional scale to empirically identify landscape features that impact on exchange between ponds and to predict crested newt movements across the landscape, iii) identify optimal locations for new ponds using a systematic conservation planning (site-selection algorithm) approach. The overriding objective of the proposed research project is to identify efficient conservation measures that will ensure the long-term survival of crested newts in Luxembourg.

Project status

  • Project granted by the Ministry of Environment, Climate and Sustainable Development (MECDD). Duration: 18 months (01.10.2019 – 31.03.2021).
  • Host institution: Fondation faune-flore @ Centre de recherche scientifique, Musée national d’histoire naturelle.

Contact

National Museum of Natural History (MNHNL)
Research centre
Life science department
24, rue Münster
L-2160 Luxembourg

Publications

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