Despite the abundance of studies of genetic diversity in freshwater fishes, few have specifically addressed the role of habitat structure in partitioning genetic variance within and among populations. In this study, we analysed the variability of six microsatellite loci among 24 brook charr population samples in order to correlate hydrographic structure with genetic organization. These populations originated from three Canadian National parks (Kouchibouguac, Fundy and Forillon) that showed distinct hydrographic structure. Considering the general characteristics of these habitats, we formulated specific hypotheses in regard to genetic structure, which were principally based on the potential for gene flow and population size associated with each habitat. The hierarchical analysis of molecular variance and the genetic distances computed among populations revealed that habitat structure analyses constitute an important, but insufficient, predictor of genetic structure. We discuss the importance of habitat complexity on genetic structure in the context of management and conservation.
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