Greater sage-grouse and natural gas development in Utah: using population genetic data for conservation efforts.

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Population declines of Greater Sage-Grouse ( Centrocercus urophasianus) throughout the western United States have been attributed to the loss, degradation, and fragmentation of sagebrush ( Artemisia spp.) habitats. Increased energy development may further fragment sagebrush habitat, isolating sage-grouse populations and resulting in genetic drift, inbreeding, local extinction, or rapid divergence. We conducted a genetic survey of 3 remote sagegrouse populations in northeastern Utah to assess mitochondrial diversity relative to other portions of the species' range. We did not detect any unusual haplotype compositions in these populations. However, haplotype composition of the Anthro Mountain and Strawberry Valley reference populations differed from haplotype compositions of other northeastern Utah populations. These populations are spatially separated by Desolation Canyon of the Green River. This canyon may constitute a geographic barrier to gene flow in this area, given low population densities and reduced dispersal potentials. This potential barrier will be an important consideration in future conservation efforts such as translocations. The halotype composition of the Anthro Mountain and Strawberry Valley reference populations may be altered by translocations subsequent to our sampling effort. The effect of these translocations on the reference halotypes and population vital rates is currently under study.

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