Conservation genomics of an endangered arboreal mammal following the 2019–2020 Australian megafire
The impacts of a changing climate threaten species, populations and ecosystems. Despite these significant and large-scale impacts on threatened species, many remain understudied and have little to no genetic information available. The greater glider, Petauroides volans, is an endangered species highly sensitive to the predicted changes in temperature under a changing climate and was recently severely impacted by a megafire natural disaster (85% estimated population loss). Baseline genetic data is essential for conservation management and for detecting detrimental changes in fire-effected populations. We collected genetic samples within 2 years post the 2019–2020 catastrophic Australian bushfires to examine adaptive potential, baseline genetic diversity and population structure, across their southern range in the state of New South Wales. Population genomic analyses were conducted using 8493 genome-wide SNPs for 86 greater glider individuals across 14 geographic locations. Substantial genetic structure was detected across locations, with low genetic diversity and effective population sizes observed in isolated areas. Additionally, we found signals of putative adaptation in response to temperature in greater gliders using a genotype-environment association analysis. These findings have important implications for the management of greater glider populations by identifying at-risk populations and identifying adaptive potential. We demonstrate the importance of baseline genetic information for endangered species as a practical approach to conservation. This is particularly important given the threat that changes in temperatures and megafire events, as predicted under a changing climate, poses for this species.
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Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources, Australian Government