Characterizing genetic integrity of rear-edge trout populations in the southern Appalachians

Kasey C. Pregler, Yoichiro Kanno, Daniel Rankin, Jason A. Coombs, Andrew R. Whiteley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Vertebrate populations at the periphery of their range can show pronounced genetic drift and isolation, and therefore offer unique challenges for conservation and management. These populations are often candidates for management actions such as translocations that are designed to improve demographic and genetic integrity. This is particularly true of coldwater species like brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis), whose numbers have declined greatly across its historic range. At the southern margin, remnant wild populations persist in isolated headwater streams, and many have a history of receiving translocated individuals through either stocking of hatchery reared fish, relocation of wild fish, or both during restoration attempts. To determine current genetic integrity and resolve the genetic effects of past management actions for brook trout populations in SC, USA, we genetically assessed all 18 documented remaining brook trout populations along with individuals acquired from six hatcheries with recorded stocking events in SC. Our results indicated that six of the 18 streams showed signs of hatchery admixture (range 57–97%) and restored patches retained genetic signatures from multiple source populations. Populations had among the lowest genetic diversity (min average HE = 0.147) and effective number of breeders (mean Nb = 31.2) estimates observed throughout the native brook trout range. Populations were highly differentiated (mean pair-wise FST = 0.396), and substantial genetic divergence was evident across major river drainages (max pair-wise FST = 0.773). The lowest local genetic diversity and highest genetic differentiation ever reported for this species make its conservation a challenging task, particularly when combined with other threats such as climate change and non-native species. We offer recommendations on managing peripheral populations with depleted genetic characteristics and provide a reference for determining which existing populations will best serve as sources for future translocation efforts aimed at enhancing or restoring wild brook trout genetic integrity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1487-1503
Number of pages17
JournalConservation Genetics
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2018


  • Admixture
  • Appalachian mountains
  • Effective population size
  • Genetic drift
  • Microsatellite
  • Translocation


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