New publication: Habitat fragmentation has interactive effects on the population genetic diversity and individual behaviour of a freshwater salmonid fish

By Casper H.A. Van Leeuwen*,2, Kristine Dalen*, Jon Museth2, Claudia Junge*,3, and L. Asbjørn Vøllestad* in River Research and Applications


Sufficient genetic diversity can aid populations to persist in dynamic and fragmented environments. Understanding which mechanisms regulate genetic diversity of riverine fish can therefore advance current conservation strategies. The aim of this study was to investigate how habitat fragmentation interacted with population genetic diversity and individual behaviour of freshwater fish in large river systems. We studied a population of the long-distance migratory, iteroparous freshwater salmonid European grayling (Thymallus thymallus) in south-eastern Norway. Genotyping (n = 527) and radio-tracking (n = 54) of adult fish throughout a 169-km river section revealed three major migration barriers limiting gene flow and depleting genetic diversity upstream. Individuals from upstream areas that had dispersed downstream of barriers showed different movement behaviour than local genotypes. No natal philopatry was found in a large unfragmented river section, in contrast to strong fidelity to spawning tributaries known for individuals overwintering in lakes. We conclude that (a) upstream sub-populations in fragmented rivers show less genetic variation, making it less likely for them to adapt to environmental changes; (b) fish with distinct genotypes in the same habitat can differ in their behaviour; (c) spawning site selection (natal philopatry) can differ between fish of the same species living in different habitats. Together this implies that habitat loss and fragmentation may differently affect individual fish of the same species if they live in different types or sections of habitat. Studying behaviour and genetic diversity of fish can unravel their complex ecology and help minimize human impact.

First published: 26 October 2017
DOI: 10.1002/rra.3226
Publication webpage

*Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Synthesis, Department of Biosciences, University of Oslo, Oslo 1066, Norway
2Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA), Lillehammer, Norway
3AquaTT, Dublin, Ireland

Tags: River Research and Applications;
Published Nov. 1, 2017 10:47 AM - Last modified Nov. 1, 2017 10:56 AM