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State Wildlife Grants Project Details

Black-backed woodpecker (Picoides arcticus) Genetic Assessment (T-034)

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In order to better understand habitat connectivity and provide for improved population monitoring and management of black-backed woodpeckers, this project aims to describe the population structure and dispersal dynamics of this species. Investigators used both population and individual-based genetic approaches to assess barriers to movement in black-backed woodpeckers. Furthermore, researchers tested if male and female woodpeckers exhibited the same movement patterns. Three genetic groups were identified, a large, genetically continuous population that spans from the Rocky Mountains to Quebec, a small isolated population in South Dakota and a separate population in the western portion of their distribution (Oregon). Patterns of genetic diversity suggest high gene flow mediated by both males and females within the continuous boreal forest. However, male-mediated gene flow is the main form of connectivity between all the populations. The smaller populations of South Dakota and Oregon are separated by large areas of unforested habitat, which apparently serves as a behavioral barrier to movement of female woodpeckers.More detailed results can be found in the associated reference reports.

Time Span

12/01/2006–12/31/2008 "Completed"

Primary Investigator

  • Jennifer Pierson


  • Pierson, J. 2009. Final project performance report for State Wildlife Grant T34: Black Backed woodpecker study. Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks. 2pp.

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  • Pierson, J. 2009. Genetic Population Structure and Dsipersal of Two North American Woodpeckers in Ephemeral Habitats. University of Montana. 198 pp.

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  • Pierson, J. 2008. Population structure and dispersal of black-backed woodpeckers, a disturbance-dependent species. University of Montana. 35 pp.

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