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Stocking may increase mitochondrial DNA diversity but fails to halt the decline of endangered Atlantic salmon populations

Ciborowski, K. L., Consuegra, S., García de Leániz, C., Wang, J., Beaumont, M. A., Jordan, W. C.
Conservation genetics 2007 v.8 no.6 pp. 1355-1367
Aeromonas salmonicida, Salmo salar, fish, gene flow, genes, genetic variation, haplotypes, infectious diseases, mitochondrial DNA, pathogens, population dynamics, rivers, Spain
Over the last 50 years, Spanish Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) populations have been in decline. In order to bolster these populations, rivers were stocked with fish of northern European origin during the period 1974-1996, probably also introducing the furunculosis-inducing pathogen, Aeromonas salmonicida. Here we assess the relative importance of processes influencing mitochondrial (mt)DNA variability in these populations from 1948 to 2002. Genetic material collected over this period from four rivers in northern Spain (Cantabria) was used to detect variability at the mtDNA ND1 gene. Before stocking, a single haplotype was found at high frequency (0.980). Following stocking, haplotype diversity (h) increased in all rivers (mean h before stocking was 0.041, and 0.245 afterwards). These increases were due principally to the dramatic increase in frequency of a previously very low frequency haplotype, reported at higher frequencies in northern European populations proximate to those used to stock Cantabrian rivers. Genetic structuring increased after stocking: among-river differentiation was low before stocking (1950s/1960s Φ ST = -0.00296-0.00284), increasing considerably at the height of stocking (1980s Φ ST = 0.18932) and decreasing post-stocking (1990s/2002 Φ ST = 0.04934-0.03852). Gene flow from stocked fish therefore seems to have had a substantial role in increasing mtDNA variability. Additionally, we found significant differentiation between individuals that had probably died from infectious disease and apparently healthy, angled fish, suggesting a possible role for pathogen-driven selection of mtDNA variation. Our results suggest that stocking with non-native fish may increase genetic diversity in the short term, but may not reverse population declines.