• Open Access

Conservation prioritization in widespread species: the use of genetic and morphological data to assess population distinctiveness in rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) from British Columbia, Canada


Eric B. Taylor, Department of Zoology, Beaty Biodiversity Research Centre, and Native Fishes Research Group, University of British Columbia, 6270 University Blvd., Vancouver, BC, V6T 1Z4, Canada.
Tel.: 604-822-9152; fax: 604-822-2416; e-mail: etaylor@zoology.ubc.ca


Prioritization of efforts to maintain biodiversity is an important component of conservation, but is more often applied to ecosystems or species than within species. We assessed distinctiveness among 27 populations of rainbow trout (Salmonidae: Oncorhynchus mykiss) from British Columbia, Canada, using microsatellite DNA variation (representing historical or contemporary demography) and morphology (representing adaptive variation). Standardized genetic scores, that is, the average deviation across individuals within populations from the overall genetic score generated by factorial correspondence analysis, ranged from 1.05 to 4.90 among populations. Similar standardized morphological scores, generated by principal components analysis, ranged from 1.19 to 5.35. There was little correlation between genetic and morphological distinctiveness across populations, although one population was genetically and morphologically the most distinctive. There was, however, a significant correlation (= 0.26, P = 0.008) between microsatellite (FST) and morphological (PST) divergence. We combined measures of allelic richness, genetic variation within, and divergence among, populations and morphological variation to provide a conservation ranking of populations. Our approach can be combined with other measures of biodiversity value (habitat, rarity, human uses, threat status) to rationalize the prioritization of populations, especially for widespread species where geographic isolation across distinct environments promotes intraspecific variability.