Research Article

Conservation Genetics

, Volume 12, Issue 1, pp 223-241

First online:

Comparative landscape genetic analysis of three Pacific salmon species from subarctic North America

  • Jeffrey B. OlsenAffiliated withConservation Genetics Laboratory, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Email author 
  • , Penelope A. CraneAffiliated withConservation Genetics Laboratory, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
  • , Blair G. FlanneryAffiliated withConservation Genetics Laboratory, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
  • , Karen DunmallAffiliated withFisheries Department, Kawerak, Inc.
  • , William D. TemplinAffiliated withAlaska Department of Fish and Game, Division of Commercial Fisheries, Gene Conservation Laboratory
  • , John K. WenburgAffiliated withConservation Genetics Laboratory, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

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We examined the assumption that landscape heterogeneity similarly influences the spatial distribution of genetic diversity in closely related and geographically overlapping species. Accordingly, we evaluated the influence of watershed affiliation and nine habitat variables from four categories (spatial isolation, habitat size, climate, and ecology) on population divergence in three species of Pacific salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha, O. kisutch, and O. keta) from three contiguous watersheds in subarctic North America. By incorporating spatial data we found that the three watersheds did not form the first level of hierarchical population structure as predicted. Instead, each species exhibited a broadly similar spatial pattern: a single coastal group with populations from all watersheds and one or more inland groups primarily in the largest watershed. These results imply that the spatial scale of conservation should extend across watersheds rather than at the watershed level which is the scale for fishery management. Three independent methods of multivariate analysis identified two variables as having influence on population divergence across all watersheds: precipitation in all species and subbasin area (SBA) in Chinook. Although we found general broad-scale congruence in the spatial patterns of population divergence and evidence that precipitation may influence population divergence in each species, we also found differences in the level of population divergence (coho > Chinook and chum) and evidence that SBA may influence population divergence only in Chinook. These differences among species support a species-specific approach to evaluating and planning for the influence of broad-scale impacts such as climate change.


Landscape genetics Pacific salmon Population structure Subarctic