The power to detect recent fragmentation events using genetic differentiation methods.
Habitat loss and fragmentation are imminent threats to biological diversity worldwide and thus are fundamental issues in conservation biology. Increased isolation alone has been implicated as a driver of negative impacts in populations associated with fragmented landscapes. Genetic monitoring and the use of measures of genetic divergence have been proposed as means to detect changes in landscape connectivity. Our goal was to evaluate the sensitivity of Wrights F st, Hedrick Gst , Sherwins MI, and Josts D to recent fragmentation events across a range of population sizes and sampling regimes. We constructed an individual-based model, which used a factorial design to compare effects of varying population size, presence or absence of overlapping generations, and presence or absence of population sub-structuring. Increases in population size, overlapping generations, and population sub-structuring each reduced F st, Gst , MI, and D. The signal of fragmentation was detected within two generations for all metrics. However, the magnitude of the change in each was small in all cases, and when N e was >100 individuals it was extremely small. Multi-generational sampling and population estimates are required to differentiate the signal of background divergence from changes in Fst , Gst , MI, and D associated with fragmentation. Finally, the window during which rapid change in Fst , Gst , MI, and D between generations occurs can be small, and if missed would lead to inconclusive results. For these reasons, use of F st, Gst , MI, or D for detecting and monitoring changes in connectivity is likely to prove difficult in real-world scenarios. We advocate use of genetic monitoring only in conjunction with estimates of actual movement among patches such that one could compare current movement with the genetic signature of past movement to determine there has been a change.