Identifying conservation hotspots in non-breeding areas: a case study of Lake Sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens) in the Great Lakes

Abstract

Limited conservation resources necessitate the prioritization of management efforts and one of the mechanisms for prioritization is the identification of hotspots. For some species of conservation concern, hotspots have been delineated, often using individual abundance as the metric. However, areas that attract individuals from multiple breeding populations may be a higher priority for conservation. These areas may have more abundant resources or habitat quality, and multiple breeding populations simultaneously benefit from conservation actions in these areas. We identified non-spawning aggregations of Lake Sturgeon Acipenser fulvescens in lakes Huron and Erie of the Great Lakes. The spawning period in Lake Sturgeon only represents a brief portion of their life and conservation goals need to include non-spawning areas. Based on 12 microsatellite loci, we determined the population of origin of individuals in the aggregations and computed a modified population-level Simpson’s diversity index (pD). Using this criterion, two hotspots were identified. The North Channel of Lake Huron had the highest diversity of represented populations (pD = 3.14). The second identified hotspot was Saginaw Bay in Lake Huron (pD = 1.78). Both hotspots had evidence of long-distance movement into the area. Monitoring of aggregations should continue to assess temporal variability in hotspot delineation.

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Acknowledgements

Funding for this project was provided by the Great Lakes Fishery Trust (2007.880) and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Hatch Project WVA00637.0227396. Michael Thomas (Michigan Department of Natural Resources) provided adult and juvenile samples from the St. Clair River. Baseline genetic data for eastern Lake Michigan were provided by Kim Scribner (Michigan State University). Stephanie Coster provided valuable input on earlier versions of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Amy Welsh.

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Communicated by Angus Jackson.

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Welsh, A., Mohr, L. & Boase, J. Identifying conservation hotspots in non-breeding areas: a case study of Lake Sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens) in the Great Lakes. Biodivers Conserv 26, 931–941 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-016-1280-x

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Keywords

  • Microsatellites
  • Population aggregations
  • Non-spawning
  • Genetic assignment