Abstract: The status and security of fishes in North American deserts have steadily declined in this century due to man's activities in this naturally fragile region. We address genetic aspects of the population structure of desert fishes as applicable to conservation and recovery programs by developing two zoogeographic models of isolation and gene flow. In the Death Valley model populations are isolated, with no chance of natural gene flow among them. Genetic diversity within populations tends to be low, but genetic divergence among populations within a species is high. In the Stream Hierarchy model, a complicated hierarchical genetic structure exists and is a function of geographic proximity and connectivity of habitats. Within‐habitat genetic diversity tends to be higher, and among‐habitat differentiation lower, than in the Death Valley model. These two systems must be recognized as distinct and managed differently. We also suggest three areas of experimentation needed to better understand and manage genetic stocks of desert fishes: relationships between heterozygosity and fitness, experimental mixing of similar stocks to examine effects of increased heterozygosity, and analysis of the relative roles of genetic adaptation and phenotypic plasticity in local differentiation.
Conservation Biology – Wiley
Published: Jun 1, 1988
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