Long-term monitoring of a brown trout (Salmo trutta) population reveals kin-associated migration patterns and contributions by resident trout to the anadromous run
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionBMC Ecology and Evolution. 2021, 21, 143. 10.1186/s12862-021-01876-9
Background: In species showing partial migration, as is the case for many salmonid fishes, it is important to assess how anthropogenic pressure experienced by migrating individuals affects the total population. We focused on brown trout (Salmo trutta) from the Guddal River in the Norwegian Hardanger Fjord system, which encompasses both resident and anadromous individuals. Aquaculture has led to increased anthropogenic pressure on brown trout during the marine phase in this region. Fish traps in the Guddal River allow for sampling all ascending anadromous spawners and descending smolts. We analyzed microsatellite DNA markers from all individuals ascending in 2006–2016, along with all emigrating smolts in 2017. We investigated (1) if there was evidence for declines in census numbers and effective population size during that period, (2) if there was association between kinship and migration timing in smolts and anadromous adults, and (3) to what extent resident trout were parents of outmigrating smolts. Results: Census counts of anadromous spawners showed no evidence for a decline from 2006 to 2016, but were lower than in 2000–2005. Estimates of effective population size also showed no trends of declines during the study period. Sibship reconstruction of the 2017 smolt run showed significant association between kinship and migration timing, and a similar association was indicated in anadromous spawners. Parentage assignment of 2017 smolts with ascending anadromous trout as candidate parents, and assuming that unknown parents represented resident trout, showed that 70% of smolts had at least one resident parent and 24% had two resident parents. Conclusions: The results bear evidence of a population that after an initial decline has stabilized at a lower number of anadromous spawners. The significant association between kinship and migration timing in smolts suggests that specific episodes of elevated mortality in the sea could disproportionally affect some families and reduce overall effective population size. Finally, the results based on parentage assignment demonstrate a strong buffering effect of resident trout in case of elevated marine mortality affecting anadromous trout, but also highlight that increased mortality of anadromous trout, most of which are females, may lower overall production in the system.