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The contribution of newly established populations to the dynamics of range expansion in a one-dimensional fluvial-estuarine system: rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) in Eastern Quebec

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Abstract Aim 

Rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss, Walbaum 1792) is an exotic salmonid invading eastern Canada. First introduced for recreational fishing in Ontario, Quebec and the Maritime provinces, the species is now spreading in salmon rivers located in Eastern Quebec, where its stocking is strictly forbidden. Newly established populations have been found along the St Lawrence Estuary. To effectively mitigate the potential threat the invasion poses to native salmonids, we aimed to document the invasion’s origin and progress in the St Lawrence River and estuary. We first determined genetic origins among several potential wild and cultured source populations, found at the upstream and downstream extremities of the St Lawrence system. Thereafter, we studied the range expansion, predicting that the invasion process conforms to a one-dimensional stepping-stone dispersion model. Location 

Recently invaded salmon rivers that flow into the Estuary and Gulf of St Lawrence in Quebec, and watercourses supporting naturalized populations (Lake Ontario, Lake Memphremagog and Prince-Edward-Island rivers). Methods 

Rainbow trout from 10 potential source populations (wild and domestic strains) and 243 specimens captured in salmon rivers were genotyped at 10 microsatellite loci. Genetic origins of specimens and relationship between colonies were assessed using assignment analyses based on individuals and clusters. Results 

Invasion of rainbow trout in Eastern Quebec is directed downstream, driven by migrants from upstream naturalized populations, found in the Ganaraska River (Lake Ontario), and, to a lesser extent, in Lake Memphremagog. Populations from the Maritime provinces and domestic strains do not contribute to the colonisation process. A recently established population in Charlevoix (Eastern Quebec) supplies other downstream colonies. Main conclusions 

Rainbow trout is spreading from Lake Ontario downstream to Eastern Quebec using the St Lawrence River system as an invasion corridor. Range expansion in a downstream direction is driven by a more complex stepping-stone dispersion model than predicted. Management options to protect native salmonids include reducing the effective size of the Charlevoix population, impeding reproduction in recently colonized rivers, halting the upstream migration of anadromous spawners, and curtailing stocking events inside the stocking area.
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Keywords: Biological invasions; fluvial estuarine system; naturalized populations; population assignment; rainbow trout; stepping-stone dispersion model

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2009-11-01

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