Landscape genetics of the yellow-bellied toad (Bombina variegata) in the northern Weser Hills of Germany
Anthropogenic influences such as deforestation, increased infrastructure, and general urbanization has led to a continuous loss in biodiversity. Amphibians are especially affected by these landscape changes. This study focuses on the population genetics of the endangered yellow-bellied toad (Bombina variegata) in the northern Weser Hills of Germany. Additionally, a landscape genetic analysis was conducted to evaluate the impact of eight different landscape elements on the genetic connectivity of the subpopulations in this area. Multiple individuals from 15 study sites were genotyped using 10 highly polymorphic species-specific microsatellites. Four genetic clusters were detected, with only two of them having considerable genetic exchange. The average genetic differentiation between populations was moderate (global FST = 0.1). The analyzed landscape elements showed significant correlations with the migration rates and genetic distances between populations. Overall, anthropogenic structures had the greatest negative impact on gene flow, whereas wetlands, grasslands, and forests imposed minimal barriers in the landscape. The most remarkable finding was the positive impact of the underpasses of the motorway A2. This element seems to be the reason why some study sites on either site of the A2 showed little genetic distance even though their habitat has been separated by a strong dispersal barrier.