Simulating pattern-process relationships to validate landscape genetic models

A. J. Shirk, S. A. Cushman, E. L. Landguth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Landscapes may resist gene flow and thereby give rise to a pattern of genetic isolation within a population. The mechanism by which a landscape resists gene flow can be inferred by evaluating the relationship between landscape models and an observed pattern of genetic isolation. This approach risks false inferences because researchers can never feasibly test all plausible alternative hypotheses. In this paper, rather than infer the process of gene flow from an observed genetic pattern, we simulate gene flow and determine if the simulated genetic pattern is related to the observed empirical genetic pattern. This is a form of inverse modeling and can be used to independently validate a landscape genetic model. In this study, we used this approach to validate a model of landscape resistance based on elevation, landcover, and roads that was previously related to genetic isolation among mountain goats (Oreamnos americanus) inhabiting the Cascade Range, Washington (USA). The strong relationship between the empirical and simulated patterns of genetic isolation we observed provides independent validation of the resistance model and demonstrates the utility of this approach in supporting landscape genetic inferences.

Original languageEnglish
Article number539109
JournalInternational Journal of Ecology
StatePublished - 2012


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