Circuit theory predicts gene flow in plant and animal populations

Brad H. McRae, Paul Beier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

683 Scopus citations


Maintaining connectivity for broad-scale ecological processes like dispersal and gene flow is essential for conserving endangered species in fragmented landscapes. However, determining which habitats should be set aside to promote connectivity has been difficult because existing models cannot incorporate effects of multiple pathways linking populations. Here, we test an ecological connectivity model that overcomes this obstacle by borrowing from electrical circuit theory. The model vastly improves gene flow predictions because it simultaneously integrates all possible pathways connecting populations. When applied to data from threatened mammal and tree species, the model consistently outperformed conventional gene flow models, revealing that barriers were less important in structuring populations than previously thought. Circuit theory now provides the best-justified method to bridge landscape and genetic data, and holds much promise in ecology, evolution, and conservation planning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)19885-19890
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number50
StatePublished - Dec 11 2007


  • Gulo gulo
  • Isolation by resistance
  • Landscape connectivity
  • Landscape genetics
  • Swietenia macrophylla

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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