Nonequilibrium conditions following landscape rearrangement: the relative contribution of past and current hydrological landscapes on the genetic structure of a stream-dwelling fish


Moira M. Ferguson, Fax: (519) 767-1656, E-mail:


Interpreting patterns of population structure in nature is often challenging, especially in dynamic landscapes where population genetic connectivity evolves over time. In this study, we document the absence of migration-drift equilibrium in a stream-dwelling euryhaline fish resulting from past fine-scale drainage rearrangements and evaluate the relative contribution of past and current hydrological landscapes on observed population structure. Based on allelic variation at nine microsatellite loci, genetic relationships among 12 populations of brook charr, Salvelinus fontinalis, from Gros Morne National Park of Canada (GMNP, Newfoundland, Canada) did not reflect current stream hierarchical structure. In addition, we observed no correlation between population differentiation and contemporary landscape features (waterway distance and sums of altitudinal differences). Instead, population relationships were consistent with historical hydrological structure predicted a priori based on geomorphological and biogeographical evidences. Also, population differentiation was strongly correlated with inferred historical landscape features. Contemporary barriers have apparently preserved the signature of past genetic connectivity by constraining gene flow. Based on the relationships between population differentiation and current and past landscape features at various spatial scales, we suggest that brook charr genetic diversity in GMNP is mostly the result of small distance migrations at the time of colonization and subsequent differentiation through drift. This study highlights the potential of approaching landscapes from a combination of contemporary and historical perspectives when interpreting nonequilibrium population structures resulting from landscape rearrangement.