Fine-Scale Ecological and Genetic Population Structure of Two Whitefish (Coregoninae) Species in the Vicinity of Industrial Thermal Emissions
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Thermal pollution from industrial processes can have negative impacts on the spawning and development of cold-water fish. Point sources of thermal effluent may need to be managed to avoid affecting discrete populations. Correspondingly, we examined fine-scale ecological and genetic population structure of two whitefish species (Coregonus clupeaformis and Prosopium cylindraceum) on Lake Huron, Canada, in the immediate vicinity of thermal effluent from nuclear power generation. Niche metrics using δ13C and δ15N stable isotopes showed high levels of overlap (48.6 to 94.5%) in resource use by adult fish captured in areas affected by thermal effluent compared to nearby reference locations. Isotopic niche size, a metric of resource use diversity, was 1.3- to 2.8-fold higher than reference values in some thermally affected areas, indicative of fish mixing. Microsatellite analyses of genetic population structure (Fst, STRUCTURE and DAPC) indicated that fish captured at all locations in the vicinity of the power plant were part of a larger population extending beyond the study area. In concert, ecological and genetic markers do not support the presence of an evolutionarily significant unit in the vicinity of the power plant. Thus, future research should focus on the potential impacts of thermal emissions on development and recruitment.
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