The Key to Successful Reintroduction of a Freshwater Fish

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Species reintroduction is a powerful conservation tool when successful, but it is an expensive management strategy and for many species including freshwater fish, reintroduction attempts often fail.

Demography, environment, and genetic variability are factors affecting reintroduction success but often these factors are examined independently when a complex interaction of factors is at play, particularly for species that form metapopulations. Former USGS Mendenhall Fellow and Virginia Tech University professor Dr. Meryl Mims led a team of coauthors to employ a spatially-explicit simulation model to evaluate a hypothetical bull trout reintroduction to three watersheds in a northeastern Washington river system, exploring the interaction of factors such as initial genetic diversity, life history variation, and connectivity. Results suggest that passage over upstream dams and other barriers are likely keys to reintroduction success, measured in terms of abundance, distribution, and genetic diversity. Prioritizing passage may be the key to a successful bull trout reintroduction, but this modeling tool can be applied to other species, providing insight for cost-benefit analyses to increase reintroduction success.

 

Mims, M.C., Day, C.C., Burkhart, J.J., Fuller, M.R., Hinkle, J., Bearlin, A., Dunham, J.B., DeHaan, P.W., Holden, Z.A., Landguth, E.L., 2019, Simulating demography, genetics, and spatially explicit processes to inform reintroduction of a threatened char: Ecosphere, v. 10, no. 2, p. e02589, https://doi.org/10.1002/ecs2.2589