Genetic assessment of lake sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens) population structure in the Ottawa River
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- Wozney, K.M., Haxton, T.J., Kjartanson, S. et al. Environ Biol Fish (2011) 90: 183. doi:10.1007/s10641-010-9730-x
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Lake sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens) are of conservation concern throughout their range. Many populations are dependent on fluvial habitats which have been increasingly impacted and fragmented by dams and human development. Although lake sturgeon were once abundant in the Ottawa River and its tributaries, historical commercial harvests and other anthropogenic factors caused severe declines and low contemporary numbers in lake sturgeon populations. Contemporary habitat fragmentation by dams may be increasing isolation among habitat patches and local rates of decline, raising concerns for persistence of local populations. We used microsatellite DNA markers to assess population structure and diversity of lake sturgeon in the Ottawa River, and analyzed samples from 10 sites that represent more than 500 km of riverine habitat. To test for evidence of anthropogenic fragmentation, patterns of genetic diversity and connectivity within and among river segments were tested for concordance with geographic location, separation by distance and obstacles to migration, considering both natural and artificial barriers as well as barrier age. Despite extensive habitat fragmentation throughout the Ottawa River, statistical analyses failed to refute panmixia of lake sturgeon in this system. Although the long generation time of lake sturgeon appears to have effectively guarded against the negative genetic impacts of habitat fragmentation and loss so far, evidence from demographic studies indicates that restoring connectivity among habitats is needed for the long-term conservation and management of this species throughout this river system.