Landscape genetics is the use of Geographical Information Systems (G.I.S.)
to place genetic diversity information into a spatial framework” Dr. Dave Galbraith, Royal Botanical Gardens.
Landscape genetics has two components: the genetic component which involves the use of molecular markers to examine population demographics and evolutionary processes; and geographical Information systems (G.I.S.) component which are database systems responsible for the organisation, modeling, analysis and presentation of geographically referenced genetic data.
Thus, landscape genetics involves the mapping of genetic characteristics across a landscape in
order to answer population questions. These genetic characteristics can be neutral markers such as mitochondrial haplotypes, microsatellite frequencies, Y chromosome haplotypes, as well as genetic markers under some sort of selection pressure eg. Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) allele frequencies.
Landscape genetics is used in conservation biology to:
Map present day habitat and species distributions.
Locate biodiversity hotspots.
Quantify habitat connectivity.
Model metapopulation viability.
Traditionally, spatial issues in genetics have dealt with geographical structuring and the effects on populations of reduced gene flow due to fragmentation of the landscape. Much more needs to be known, both from field and theoretical studies, about genetic processes in landscapes. To this end, G.I.S. has been used recently with different genetic markers for the study of intraspecific geographical variation
of a variety of species. This is a novel approach aimed at separating the effects of natural selection vs genetic drift and population history on the geographical distribution of a genetic marker within a species.The study of geographical patterns of biochemical markers in humans by Cavalli-Sforza
and colleagues is one of the best known studies of this kind.
Landscape genetics has been instrumental in defining conservation units and delineating the
appropriate spatial scale at which to aim conservation efforts in order to preserve local adaptations.
Finally, landscape genetics has played a role in efforts to restore wild populations by defing habitat characteristics which are evolutionarily relevant to the success of the species being restored.
The NRDPFC is involved in a number of conservation projects which have a landscape genetic component. These include:
Swift Fox Project
Northen Right Whale Project
Southern Right Whale Project
Franciscana Dolphin Project
The aim of the NRDPFC is to contribute significantly to conservation of species populations by monitoring the status of populations, defining the genetic “health” of populations; and investigate the impact of changes in land use on genetic diversity of populations. As part of their mandate, NRPDFC
is establishing baseline genetic data on existing populations of the species being studied.
COORDINATING GEOGRAPHIC DATA ACQUISITION AND ACCESS: The National Spatial Data Infrastructure. NRDPFC database is used to collect and organize spatial data which accompanies samples acquired for various projects. The NRDPFC is working with LIO and the CGDI (Canadian National Geospatial Data Clearinghouse).