Increased natural reproduction and genetic diversity one generation after cessation of a steelhead trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) conservation hatchery program

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Abstract

Spatial and temporal fluctuations in productivity and abundance confound assessments of captive propagation programs aimed at recovery of Threatened and Endangered populations. We conducted a 17 year before-after-control-impact experiment to determine the effects of a captive rearing program for anadromous steelhead trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) on a key indicator of natural spawner abundance (naturally produced nests or ‘redds’). The supplemented population exhibited a significant (2.6-fold) increase in redd abundance in the generation following supplementation. Four non-supplemented (control) populations monitored over the same 17 year period exhibited stable or decreasing trends in redd abundance. Expected heterozygosity in the supplemented population increased significantly. Allelic richness increased, but to a lesser (non-significant) degree. Estimates of the effective number of breeders increased from a harmonic mean of 24.4 in the generation before supplementation to 38.9 after supplementation. Several non-conventional aspects of the captive rearing program may have contributed to the positive response in the natural population.

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Berejikian, B. A., & Van Doornik, D. M. (2018). Increased natural reproduction and genetic diversity one generation after cessation of a steelhead trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) conservation hatchery program. PLoS ONE, 13(1). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0190799

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