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Tracking genetic diversity in a large-scale oyster restoration program: effects of hatchery propagation and initial characterization of diversity on restored vs. wild reefs.
Hornick, KM; Plough, LV
The release of hatchery-propagated fish and shellfish is occurring on a global scale, but the genetic impacts of these practices are often not fully understood and rarely monitored. Slow recovery of depleted eastern oyster populations in the Chesapeake Bay, USA has prompted a hatchery-based restoration program focused in the Choptank River, Maryland consisting of the mass release of hatchery-produced juveniles from local, wild broodstock. To evaluate potential genetic effects of this program, we (1) examined changes in genetic diversity (allelic richness, heterozygosity) and the effective number of breeders (Nb) over the hatchery production cycle with microsatellite-based parentage of natural, mass-and controlled-spawned cohorts, and (2) compared genetic diversity and effective population size (Ne) of a restored reef to wild source populations. Mass-spawned cohorts showed high variance in reproductive contribution, particularly among males, leading to a 45% average reduction in Nb from spawning adult numbers and higher relatedness-lower magnitude reductions in heterozygosity and significant reductions in allelic richness were also observed. While controlled-spawns (single-male fertilizations of pooled eggs) reduced male variance, overall reproductive variance (Vk) remained high. Finally, oysters sampled from a restored reef displayed comparable Ne, genetic diversity, and relatedness to samples from wild populations, with no significant genetic differentiation among them. Overall, the hatchery-based results and initial field-based population genetic analyses suggest that despite reductions in diversity from parents to offspring owing to high Vk, enhancement with rotated, wild broodstock appears to have maintained genetic diversity in a restored reef population compared to proximal wild populations.
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