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Using genetic data to advance stream fish reintroduction science: A case study in brook trout

March 3, 2022

Widespread extirpation of native fish populations has led to a rise in species reintroduction efforts worldwide. Most efforts have relied on demographic data alone to guide project design and evaluate success. However, the genetic characteristics of many imperiled fish populations including low diversity, local adaptation, and hatchery introgression emphasize the importance of genetic data in the design and monitoring of reintroduction efforts. Focusing on a case study of brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) in North Carolina, USA, we show how the combined use of genetic and demographic data can support reintroduction efforts by improving source population selection and providing opportunities to evaluate genetic viability and adaptive potential in restored populations. Using this combined approach, we reintroduced brook trout into a restored stream from two source populations and monitored changes in genetic diversity and population size in source and recipient populations. Three years after the initial translocation, the reintroduced population had comparable density, but higher genetic diversity, than either source population. This study demonstrates the utility of genetic and demographic data for reintroduction efforts, particularly when extant populations are genetically depauperate and maintaining adaptive potential is a primary restoration goal. However, we emphasize the value of continued monitoring at longer temporal and spatial scales to determine the effects of stochastic process on the long-term adaptive capacity and persistence of reintroduced populations. Overall, inclusion of genetic data in reintroduction efforts offers increased ability to meet project goals while simultaneously conserving critical sources of adaptive variation that exist across the landscape.

Publication Year 2023
Title Using genetic data to advance stream fish reintroduction science: A case study in brook trout
DOI 10.1111/rec.13662
Authors Shannon L. White, Thomas C Johnson, Jacob M Rash, Barbara A. Lubinski, David C. Kazyak
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Restoration Ecology
Index ID 70229514
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Leetown Science Center; Eastern Ecological Science Center