Fine-scale barriers to connectivity across a fragmented South-East Asian landscape in six songbird species

Emilie Cros, Elize Y.X. Ng, Rachel R.Y. Oh, Qian Tang, Suzan Benedick, David P. Edwards, Suzanne Tomassi, Martin Irestedt, Per G.P. Ericson, Frank E. Rheindt*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Habitat fragmentation is a major extinction driver. Despite dramatically increasing fragmentation across the globe, its specific impacts on population connectivity across species with differing life histories remain difficult to characterize, let alone quantify. Here, we investigate patterns of population connectivity in six songbird species from Singapore, a highly fragmented tropical rainforest island. Using massive panels of genome-wide single nucleotide polymorphisms across dozens of samples per species, we examined population genetic diversity, inbreeding, gene flow and connectivity among species along a spectrum of ecological specificities. We found a higher resilience to habitat fragmentation in edge-tolerant and forest-canopy species as compared to forest-dependent understorey insectivores. The latter exhibited levels of genetic diversity up to three times lower in Singapore than in populations from contiguous forest elsewhere. Using dense genomic and geographic sampling, we identified individual barriers such as reservoirs that effectively minimize gene flow in sensitive understorey birds, revealing that terrestrial forest species may exhibit levels of sensitivity to fragmentation far greater than previously expected. This study provides a blueprint for conservation genomics at small scales with a view to identifying preferred locations for habitat corridors, flagging candidate populations for restocking with translocated individuals and improving the design of future reserves.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1026-1036
Number of pages11
JournalEvolutionary Applications
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 May 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • RADseq
  • barriers
  • birds
  • connectivity
  • conservation genetics
  • fragmentation
  • tropics


Dive into the research topics of 'Fine-scale barriers to connectivity across a fragmented South-East Asian landscape in six songbird species'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this