Landscape barriers influence movement patterns of animals, which in turn, affect spatio-temporal spread of infectious wildlife disease. We compare genetic data from computer simulations to those acquired from field samples to measure the effect of a landscape barrier on raccoon (Procyon lotor) movement, enabling risk assessment of raccoon rabies disease spread across the Niagara River from New York State into Ontario, an area currently uninfected by rabies. An individual-based spatially explicit model is used to simulate the expansion of a raccoon population to cross the Niagara River, for different permeabilities of the river to raccoon crossings. Since the model records individual raccoon genetics, the genetic population structure of neutral mitochondrial DNA haplotypes are characterised in the expanding population, every 25 years, using a genetic distance measure, φ{symbol}ST, Mantel tests and a gene diversity measure. The river barrier effect is assessed by comparing genetic measures computed from model outputs to those calculated from 166 raccoons recently sampled from the same landscape. The "best fit" between modelled scenarios and field data indicate the river prevents 50% of attempts to cross the river. Founder effects dominated the colonizing genetic population structure, and, as the river barrier effect increased, its genetic diversity decreased. Using gene flow to calibrate the effect of the river as a barrier to movement provides an estimate of the effect of a river in reducing the likelihood of cross-river infection. Including individual genetic markers in simulation modelling benefits investigations of disease spread and control.

Barrier, Genetic, Landscape, Modelling, Rabies, Raccoon (Procyon lotor), Wildlife disease
Preventive Veterinary Medicine

Rees, E.E. (Erin E.), Pond, B.A. (Bruce A.), Cullingham, C., Tinline, R. (Rowland), Ball, D. (David), Kyle, C.J. (Christopher J.), & White, B.N. (Bradley N.). (2008). Assessing a landscape barrier using genetic simulation modelling: Implications for raccoon rabies management. Preventive Veterinary Medicine, 86(1-2), 107–123. doi:10.1016/j.prevetmed.2008.03.007