Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Karl, Stephen A.


inbreeding, effective population size, aquaculture, mutational meltdown, mating systems


Genetic changes likely occur in wild fish populations as a consequence of interactions with cultured fish, but to what extent do those changes threaten the maintenance of natural genetic diversity and population viability? Following a review and categorization of numerous processes suspected of being agents of post-release genetic change in recipient wild populations (Chapter 1), I focus on risks relating to the magnitude and duration of releases -- but with a twist. That is, I assume that the mean fitness of released, cultured individuals does not differ from that of the recipient natural population. Throughout, attention is devoted to potential post-release changes in inbreeding (NeI) and variance (NeV) effective population sizes -- indicators of expected rates of population-level change in inbreeding and drift variance, respectively. The reductive effect that large-scale releases exert on NeI in recipient populations can be significant.

The effect is shown to be a threshold process (Chapter 2) and thus suggestive of an approach for determining risk-adverse stocking (or release) rates. This approach is utilized in Chapter 3, which describes genetic recommendations for an incipient marine stocking program. Several discordant contemporary NeI models are examined mathematically and by computer simulation (Chapter 4). I show that certain published results pertaining to the effect of multiple paternity on NeI are erroneous; a general model is described which accounts for inbreeding and relatedness in and among parents. That model is utilized in an empirical study of gene correlation in a hatchery cohort (Chapter 5). Propagation-related causes of reductions in NeI are also investigated in this cohort.

Finally, extending mutational meltdown theory to accommodate fluctuating population sizes and recessive selective effects, I show that when large reductions in NeV occur (such as those that accompany admixtures of cultured and wild fish), the expected time to population inviability is significantly reduced (Chapter 6). Although a more comprehensive theoretical approach is needed, a precautionary inference may be drawn -- aquaculture-induced reductions in Ne, even though they may be transient, can lead to adverse genetic impacts. Avoidance of Ne-reductions cannot be accomplished, in a practical sense, without considering the stocking or release rates of cultured fish.