Both long-term environmental changes such as those driven by the glacial cycles and more recent anthropogenic impacts have had major effects on the past demography in wild organisms. Within species, these changes are reflected in the amount and distribution of neutral genetic variation. In this thesis, mitochondrial and microsatellite DNA was analysed to investigate how environmental and anthropogenic factors have affected genetic diversity and structure in four ecologically different animal species. Paper I describes the post-glacial recolonisation history of the speckled-wood butterfly (Pararge aegeria) in Northern Europe. A decrease in genetic diversity with latitude and a marked population structure were uncovered, consistent with a hypothesis of repeated founder events during the postglacial recolonisation. Moreover, Approximate Bayesian Computation analyses indicate that the univoltine populations in Scandinavia and Finland originate from recolonisations along two routes, one on each side of the Baltic. Paper II aimed to investigate how past sea-level rises affected the population history of the convict surgeonfish (Acanthurus triostegus) in the Indo-Pacific. Assessment of the species’ demographic history suggested a population expansion that occurred approximately at the end of the last glaciation. Moreover, the results demonstrated an overall lack of phylogeographic structure, probably due to the high dispersal rates associated with the species’ pelagic larval stage. Populations at the species’ eastern range margin were significantly differentiated from other populations, which likely is a consequence of their geographic isolation. In Paper III, we assessed the effect of human impact on the genetic variation of European moose (Alces alces) in Sweden. Genetic analyses revealed a spatial structure with two genetic clusters, one in northern and one in southern Sweden, which were separated by a narrow transition zone. Moreover, demographic inference suggested a recent population bottleneck. The inferred timing of this bottleneck coincided with a known reduction in population size in the 19th and early 20th century due to high hunting pressure. In Paper IV, we examined the effect of an indirect but well-described human impact, via environmental toxic chemicals (PCBs), on the genetic variation of Eurasian otters (Lutra lutra) in Sweden. Genetic clustering assignment revealed differentiation between otters in northern and southern Sweden, but also in the Stockholm region. ABC analyses indicated a decrease in effective population size in both northern and southern Sweden. Moreover, comparative analyses of historical and contemporary samples demonstrated a more severe decline in genetic diversity in southern Sweden compared to northern Sweden, in agreement with the levels of PCBs found.
At the time of the doctoral defense, the following papers were unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 2: Manuscript. Paper 3: Manuscript.