Effects of low-density urbanization on genetic structure in the Song Sparrow

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Urbanization fragments landscapes and can impede the movement of organisms through their environment, which can decrease population connectivity. Reduction in connectivity influences gene flow and allele frequencies, and can lead to a reduction in genetic diversity and the fixation of certain alleles, with potential negative effects for populations. Previous studies have detected effects of urbanization on genetic diversity and structure in terrestrial animals living in landscapes that vary in their degree of urbanization, even over very short distances. We investigated the effects of low-intensity urbanization on genetic diversity and genetic structure in Song Sparrows (Melospiza melodia). We captured 208 Song Sparrows at seven sites along a gradient of urbanization in and around Blacksburg, VA, USA, then genotyped them using a panel of fifteen polymorphic microsatellite loci. We found that genetic diversity was comparable among the seven study sites, and there was no evidence of genetic structuring among sites. These findings suggest that over a gradient of urbanization characterized by low density urban development, Song Sparrows likely exist in a single panmictic population.