The genetic integrity of many salmonid fish populations is threatened by stocking of domesticated conspecifics. The purpose of this study was to assess the utility of microsatellite DNA markers for detecting loss of genetic diversity in hatchery strains, for estimating their genetic relationships, and for monitoring the genetic impact of stocking activity on wild populations of salmonid fishes. Brown trout from ten hatchery strains, one supportive breeding "strain," and five wild populations were screened for variation at eight loci. In most hatchery strains, genetic variation was comparable to that of wild populations, but three strains showed loss of allelic variation. In six of the hatchery strains, significant differentiation was observed between age classes. Genetic differentiation among all populations was moderate (F-ST = 0.065, p(ST) = 0.076), and only a minor part of genetic diversity was distributed between the wild and hatchery populations. We assessed whether wild populations were introgressed by stocked hatchery trout by performing assignment tests to determine population of origin and estimating maximum potential introgression rates. The results suggested that genetic introgression by hatchery trout had occurred for only two of the five populations potentially influenced by stocking. In one of these two rivers, microsatellite data obtained from a limited number of old scale samples indicated that individuals from the original population were genetically divergent from these of the present population, suggesting that extinction of the original population had taken place. The study demonstrates that microsatellite analysis provides a useful tool for distinguishing heavily introgressed populations from those unaffected by stocking. The information can be used to assist in (1) prioritizing populations for conservation and (2) the choice of wild populations to be used as sources for the reintroduction of salmonids in areas where local, indigenous gene pools have been extirpated.
|Publication status||Published - 2001|