Application of network methods for understanding evolutionary dynamics in discrete habitats

Gili Greenbaum*, Nina H. Fefferman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


In populations occupying discrete habitat patches, gene flow between habitat patches may form an intricate population structure. In such structures, the evolutionary dynamics resulting from interaction of gene-flow patterns with other evolutionary forces may be exceedingly complex. Several models describing gene flow between discrete habitat patches have been presented in the population-genetics literature; however, these models have usually addressed relatively simple settings of habitable patches and have stopped short of providing general methodologies for addressing nontrivial gene-flow patterns. In the last decades, network theory – a branch of discrete mathematics concerned with complex interactions between discrete elements – has been applied to address several problems in population genetics by modelling gene flow between habitat patches using networks. Here, we present the idea and concepts of modelling complex gene flows in discrete habitats using networks. Our goal is to raise awareness to existing network theory applications in molecular ecology studies, as well as to outline the current and potential contribution of network methods to the understanding of evolutionary dynamics in discrete habitats. We review the main branches of network theory that have been, or that we believe potentially could be, applied to population genetics and molecular ecology research. We address applications to theoretical modelling and to empirical population-genetic studies, and we highlight future directions for extending the integration of network science with molecular ecology.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)2850-2863
Number of pages14
JournalMolecular Ecology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Jun 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 John Wiley & Sons Ltd


  • gene flow
  • network science
  • network theory
  • patch network
  • population genetics


Dive into the research topics of 'Application of network methods for understanding evolutionary dynamics in discrete habitats'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this