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Is now the time? Review of genetic rescue as a conservation tool for brook trout

May 25, 2023

Brook trout populations have been declining throughout their native range in the east coast of the United States. Many populations are now distributed in small, isolated habitat patches where low genetic diversity and high rates of inbreeding reduce contemporary viability and long-term adaptive potential. Although human-assisted gene flow could theoretically improve conservation outcomes through genetic rescue, there is widespread hesitancy to use this tool to support brook trout conservation. Here, we review the major uncertainties that have limited genetic rescue from being considered as a viable conservation tool for isolated brook trout populations and compare the risks of genetic rescue with other management alternatives. Drawing on theoretical and empirical studies, we discuss methods for implementing genetic rescue in brook trout that could yield long-term evolutionary benefits while avoiding negative fitness effects associated with outbreeding depression and the spread of maladapted alleles. We also highlight the potential for future collaborative efforts to accelerate our understanding of genetic rescue as a viable tool for conservation. Ultimately, while we acknowledge that genetic rescue is not without risk, we emphasize the merits that this tool offers for protecting and propagating adaptive potential and improving species' resilience to rapid environmental change.

Publication Year 2023
Title Is now the time? Review of genetic rescue as a conservation tool for brook trout
DOI 10.1002/ece3.10142
Authors Shannon L. White, Jacob M Rash, David C. Kazyak
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Ecology and Evolution
Index ID 70244013
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Leetown Science Center; Eastern Ecological Science Center