Multidisciplinary population monitoring when demographic data are sparse: a case study of remote trout populations



The potential of genetic, genomic, and phenotypic metrics for monitoring population trends may be especially high in isolated regions, where traditional demographic monitoring is logistically difficult and only sporadic sampling is possible. This potential, however, is relatively underexplored empirically. Over eleven years, we assessed several such metrics along with traditional ecological knowledge and catch data in a socioeconomically important trout species occupying a large, remote lake. The data revealed largely stable characteristics in two populations over 2–3 generations, but possible contemporary changes in a third population. These potential shifts were suggested by reduced catch rates, reduced body size, and changes in selection implied at one gene-associated single nucleotide polymorphism. A demographic decline in this population, however, was ambiguously supported, based on the apparent lack of temporal change in effective population size, and corresponding traditional knowledge suggesting little change in catch. We illustrate how the pluralistic approach employed has practicality for setting future monitoring efforts of these populations, by guiding monitoring priorities according to the relative merits of different metrics and availability of resources. Our study also considers some advantages and disadvantages to adopting a pluralistic approach to population monitoring where demographic data are not easily obtained.