Reintroductions are a common approach for preserving intraspecific biodiversity in fragmented landscapes. However, they may exacerbate the reduction in genetic diversity initially caused by population fragmentation because the effective population size of reintroduced populations is often smaller and reintroduced populations also tend to be more geographically isolated than native populations. Mixing genetically divergent sources for reintroduction purposes is a practice intended to increase genetic diversity. We documented the outcome of reintroductions from three mixed sources on the ancestral composition and genetic variation of a North American fish, the slimy sculpin (Cottus cognatus). We used microsatellite markers to evaluate allelic richness and heterozygosity in the reintroduced populations relative to computer simulated expectations. Sculpins in reintroduced populations exhibited higher levels of heterozygosity and allelic richness than any single source, but only slightly higher than the single most genetically diverse source population. Simulations intended to mimic an ideal scenario for maximizing genetic variation in the reintroduced populations also predicted increases, but they were only moderately greater than the most variable source population. We found that a single source contributed more than the other two sources at most reintroduction sites. We urge caution when choosing whether to mix source populations in reintroduction programs. Genetic characteristics of candidate source populations should be evaluated prior to reintroduction if feasible. When combined with knowledge of the degree of genetic distinction among sources, simulations may allow the genetic diversity benefits of mixing populations to be weighed against the risks of outbreeding depression in reintroduced and nearby populations. ?? 2010 US Government.
Additional publication details
Patterns of ancestry and genetic diversity in reintroduced populations of the slimy sculpin: Implications for conservation