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Keywords:

  • anthropogenic-mediated migration;
  • gene flow;
  • NAOI;
  • population structure;
  • Salmo salar

Abstract

This study focuses on temporal changes in Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) populations from the vulnerable periphery of the species range (northern Spain). Using microsatellite markers to assess population structuring and introgression of exogenous genes in four different temporal samples collected across 20 years, we have determined the relative weights of climate and stocking practices in shaping contemporary regional population genetic patterns. Climate, represented by the North Atlantic Oscillation Index, was identified as the main factor for determining the level of population genetic differentiation. Populations within the region have become homogenized through gene flow enhanced by straying of adult salmon from natal rivers and subsequent interchange of genes among rivers due to warmer temperatures. At the same time, and in line with documented changes in stock transfer strategies, evidence of genetic introgression from past stock transfers has decreased throughout the study period, becoming a secondary factor in erasing population structuring. The ability to disentangle the effects of climatic changes and anthropogenic factors (fisheries management practices) is essential for effective long-term conservation of this iconic species. We emphasize the importance of evaluating all factors which may be linked to stocking practices in vulnerable species, particularly those sensitive to climate change.