Population structure and genetic diversity of trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) above and below natural and man-made barriers in the Russian River, California

The effects of landscape features on gene flow in threatened and endangered species play an important role in influencing the genetic structure of populations. We examined genetic variation of trout in the species Oncorhynchus mykiss at 22 microsatellite loci from 20 sites in the Russian River basin in central California. We assessed relative patterns of genetic structure and variation in fish from above and below both natural (waterfalls) and man-made (dams) barriers. Additionally, we compared sites sampled in the Russian River with sites from 16 other coastal watersheds in California. Genetic variation among the 20 sites sampled within the Russian River was significantly partitioned into six groups above natural barriers and one group consisting of all below barrier and above dam sites. Although the below-barrier sites showed moderate gene flow, we found some support for sub-population differentiation of individual tributaries in the watershed. Genetic variation at all below-barrier sites was high compared to above-barrier sites. Fish above dams were similar to those from below-barrier sites and had similar levels of genetic diversity, indicating they have not been isolated very long from below-barrier populations.Population samples from above natural barriers were highly divergent, with large Fst values, and had significantly lower genetic diversity, indicating relatively small population sizes. The origins of populations above natural barriers could not be ascertained by comparing microsatellite diversity to other California rivers. Finally, below-barrier sites farther inland were more genetically differentiated from other watersheds than below-barrier sites nearer the river’s mouth.