Fine-scale population structure and riverscape genetics of brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) distributed continuously along headwater channel networks

Authors

  • YOICHIRO KANNO,

    1. Department of Natural Resources and the Environment, University of Connecticut, 1376 Storrs Road, Storrs, CT 06269, USA
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    • Present address: Center for the Management, Utilization and Protection of Water Resources and Department of Biology, Tennessee Technological University, Box 5063, 1100 North Dixie Avenue, Cookeville, TN 38505, USA.

  • JASON C. VOKOUN,

    1. Department of Natural Resources and the Environment, University of Connecticut, 1376 Storrs Road, Storrs, CT 06269, USA
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  • BENJAMIN H. LETCHER

    1. Silvio O. Conte Anadromous Fish Research Center, United States Geological Survey, PO Box 796, One Migratory Way, Turners Falls, MA 01376, USA
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Yoichiro Kanno, Fax: +1 931 372 6257; E-mail: ykanno@tntech.edu

Abstract

Linear and heterogeneous habitat makes headwater stream networks an ideal ecosystem in which to test the influence of environmental factors on spatial genetic patterns of obligatory aquatic species. We investigated fine-scale population structure and influence of stream habitat on individual-level genetic differentiation in brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) by genotyping eight microsatellite loci in 740 individuals in two headwater channel networks (7.7 and 4.4 km) in Connecticut, USA. A weak but statistically significant isolation-by-distance pattern was common in both sites. In the field, many tagged individuals were recaptured in the same 50-m reaches within a single field season (summer to fall). One study site was characterized with a hierarchical population structure, where seasonal barriers (natural falls of 1.5–2.5 m in height during summer base-flow condition) greatly reduced gene flow and perceptible spatial patterns emerged because of the presence of tributaries, each with a group of genetically distinguishable individuals. Genetic differentiation increased when pairs of individuals were separated by high stream gradient (steep channel slope) or warm stream temperature in this site, although the evidence of their influence was equivocal. In a second site, evidence for genetic clusters was weak at best, but genetic differentiation between individuals was positively correlated with number of tributary confluences. We concluded that the population-level movement of brook trout was limited in the study headwater stream networks, resulting in the fine-scale population structure (genetic clusters and clines) even at distances of a few kilometres, and gene flow was mitigated by ‘riverscape’ variables, particularly by physical barriers, waterway distance (i.e. isolation-by-distance) and the presence of tributaries.

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