Interaction of landscape and life history attributes on genetic diversity, neutral divergence and gene flow in a pristine community of salmonids


School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, University of Washington, PO Box 355020, Seattle WA 98115, USA. Daniel Gomez-Uchida, Fax: (206) 685 7471; E-mail:


Landscape genetics holds promise for the forecasting of spatial patterns of genetic diversity based on key environmental features. Yet, the degree to which inferences based on single species can be extended to whole communities is not fully understood. We used a pristine and spatially structured community of three landlocked salmonids (Salvelinus fontinalis, Salmo salar, and Salvelinus alpinus) from Gros Morne National Park (Newfoundland, Canada) to test several predictions on the interacting effects of landscape and life history variation on genetic diversity, neutral divergence, and gene flow (m, migration rate). Landscape factors consistently influenced multispecies genetic patterns: (i) waterfalls created strong dichotomies in genetic diversity and divergence between populations above and below them in all three salmonids; (ii) contemporary m decreased with waterway distance in all three species, while neutral genetic divergence (θ) increased with waterway distance, albeit in only two taxa; (iii) river flow generally produced downstream-biased m between populations when waterfalls separated these, but not otherwise. In contrast, we expected differential life history to result in a hierarchy of neutral divergence (S. salar > S. fontinalis > S. alpinus) based on disparities in dispersal abilities and population size from previous mark-recapture studies. Such hierarchy additionally matched varying degrees of spatial genetic structure among species revealed through individual-based analyses. We conclude that, whereas key landscape attributes hold power to predict multispecies genetic patterns in equivalent communities, they are likely to interact with species-specific life history attributes such as dispersal, demography, and ecology, which will in turn affect holistic conservation strategies.