Deciphering Hatchery Stock Influences on Wild Populations of Vermont Lake Trout

To better understand the influence of hatchery practices on wild populations of Lake Trout Salvelinus namaycush, we used a landscape genetic approach to tease apart the population genetic patterns expected due to natural processes versus hatchery stocking, i.e., human-mediated gene flow. In several lakes across our study area in Vermont, the presence of exogenous mitochondrial DNA haplotypes supported our human-mediated gene flow hypothesis. Microsatellite DNA analyses showed introgression of hatchery genotypes into the wild populations. Nonetheless, clustering patterns within river drainages and signatures of isolation by distance were consistent with natural postglacial colonization. We conclude that though the genetic makeup of Vermont Lake Trout populations has been influenced by stocking, a lack of genetic bottlenecks and concordance with landscape processes suggests that much of the indigenous genetic diversity remains intact. We were able to attribute departures from expectations based on natural genetic patterns to hatchery introgression in specific lakes. To preserve the adaptive potential of local populations that have persisted since the last ice age, we suggest areas for which hatchery supplementation could be minimized.

Received June 16, 2014; accepted September 12, 2014