Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design
Division of Forestry and Natural Resources
Many hydroelectric dams have been in place for 50 - >100 years, which for most fish species means that enough generations have passed for fragmentation induced divergence to have accumulated. However, for long-lived species such as Lake Sturgeon, Acipenser fulvescens, it should be possible to discriminate between historical population structuring and contemporary gene flow and improve the broader understanding of anthropogenic influence. On the Winnipeg River, Manitoba, two hypotheses were tested: 1) Measureable quantities of former reservoir dwelling Lake Sturgeon now reside downstream of the Slave Falls Generating Station, and 2) genetically differentiated populations of Lake Sturgeon occur upstream and downstream, a result of historical structuring. Genetic methods based on ten microsatellite markers were employed, and simulations were conducted to provide context. With regards to contemporary upstream to downstream contributions, the inclusion of length-at-age data proved informative. Both pairwise relatedness and Bayesian clustering analysis substantiated that fast-growing outliers, apparently entrained after residing in the upstream reservoir for several years, accounted for ~15% of the Lake Sturgeon 525–750 mm fork length captured downstream. With regards to historical structuring, upstream and downstream populations were found to be differentiated (FST = 0.011, and 0.013–0.014 when fast-growing outliers were excluded), and heterozygosity metrics were higher for downstream versus upstream juveniles. Historical asymmetric (downstream) gene flow in the vicinity of the generating station was the most logical explanation for the observed genetic structuring. In this section of the Winnipeg River, construction of a major dam does not appear to have fragmented a previously panmictic Lake Sturgeon population, but alterations to habitat may be influencing upstream to downstream contributions in unexpected ways.
Digital Commons Citation
McDougall, Craig A.; Welsh, Amy B.; Gosselin, Thierry; Anderson, W Gary; and Nelson, Patrick A., "Rethinking the influence of hydroelectric development on gene flow in a long-lived fish, the Lake Sturgeon Acipenser fulvescens" (2017). Faculty & Staff Scholarship. 1722.
McDougall CA, Welsh AB, Gosselin T, Anderson WG, Nelson PA (2017) Rethinking the influence of hydroelectric development on gene flow in a long-lived fish, the Lake Sturgeon Acipenser fulvescens. PLoS ONE 12(3): e0174269. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0174269