1. Wetland ecosystems worldwide are threatened by habitat alteration, climate change and the introduction of invasive species, even within protected areas. Unravelling the reliance of sensitive wetland-dwelling species, such as amphibians, on habitat characteristics is thus essential to identify conservation targets. 2. Here we assess the distribution of genetic diversity of two strongly aquatic amphibians (Pelophylax perezi and Pleurodeles waltl) in association with habitat features across the most extensive, protected wetland of the Iberian Peninsula: Doñana National Park. 3. Despite inhabiting a protected area free from anthropogenic barriers, the genetic diversity of P. perezi and P. waltl is not homogeneously distributed across the wetland, but instead concentrates in core areas, mainly in the northern zone. Both genetic diversity and connectivity (as opposed to genetic differentiation) showed significant positive associations with the area of the breeding sites and the flooded area surrounding the breeding sites within the dispersal potential of either species, that is nearby pond availability. 4. Large water bodies connected to abundant temporary ponds are key for the maintenance of amphibian genetic diversity. Nevertheless, the core populations of our target species, which show markedly aquatic habits, are concentrated in areas colonised by invasive species, which could compromise their long-term viability. 5. Our results highlight that maintaining widely connected arrays of ponds of different hydroperiods, including large breeding sites free from invasive predators and competitors, is paramount for amphibian conservation in Mediterranean wetlands.

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Freshwater Biology

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Staff publications

Sánchez‐Montes, Gregorio, Martínez‐Solano, Íñigo, Díaz‐Paniagua, Carmen, Martínez‐Gil, Helena, Arntzen, J., & Gomez‐Mestre, Ivan. (2024). Pond area and availability safeguard amphibian genetic diversity across Iberia's largest protected wetland. Freshwater Biology, 2024. doi:10.1111/fwb.14255