Anthropogenic habitat alteration leads to rapid loss of adaptive variation and restoration potential in wild salmon populations

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
Tasha Q ThompsonMichael R Miller


Phenotypic variation is critical for the long-term persistence of species and populations. Anthropogenic activities have caused substantial shifts and reductions in phenotypic variation across diverse taxa, but the underlying mechanism (i.e., phenotypic plasticity and/or genetic evolution) and potential to recover previous phenotypic characteristics are unclear. Here we investigate changes in adult migration characteristics of wild salmon populations caused by dam construction and other anthropogenic habitat modifications. Strikingly, we find that dramatic allele frequency change (i.e., genetic evolution) from strong selection at a single locus explains the rapid phenotypic shift observed after recent dam construction. Furthermore, ancient DNA analysis confirms the abundance of a specific allele associated with adult migration type in historical habitat that will soon become accessible through a large restoration (i.e., dam removal) project. However, analysis of contemporary samples suggests the restoration will be challenged by loss of the allele from potential source populations. These results highlight the need to conserve and restore critical adaptive variation before the potential for recovery is lost.

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