Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Cropland connectivity affects genetic divergence of Colorado potato beetle along an invasion front.

Abstract

The population genetic structure of invasive species can be strongly affected by environmental and landscape barriers to dispersal. Disentangling the relative contributions of these factors to genetic divergence among invading populations is a fundamental goal of landscape genetics with important implications for invasion management. Here, we relate patterns of genetic divergence in a global invasive agricultural pest, Colorado potato beetle (CPB; Leptinotarsa decemlineata), to environmental and landscape factors along an invasion front in Northwestern China. We first used microsatellite markers and spatial-temporal samples to assess broad patterns of genetic diversity as well as fine-scale changes in patterns of genetic divergence. We then distinguished the relative contributions of five factors to genetic divergence among front populations: geographic distance (isolation by distance), climate dissimilarity (isolation by environment), and least-cost distances (isolation by resistance) modeled with three factors: climate suitability, cropland cover, and road networks. Genetic diversity broadly decreased from West to East, with the exception being Eastern China. Low levels of genetic diversity and varying degrees of divergence were observed in Northwestern China, reflecting the potential effect of landscape heterogeneity. Least-cost distance across cropland cover was most positively correlated with genetic divergence, suggesting a role of croplands in facilitating gene flow. The contribution of climate to genetic divergence was secondary, whether modeled in terms of local adaptability or connectivity of the climatic landscape, suggesting that constraints to CPB gene flow imposed by a harsh climate may be ameliorated in agricultural landscapes. No evidence was found for an obvious effect of road networks on genetic divergence and population structuring. Our study provides an example of how agricultural landscape connectivity can facilitate the spread of invasive pests, even across a broad climatic gradient. More broadly, our findings can guide decisions about future land management for mitigating further spread.