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Genetic resilience of Daphnia populations following experimental removal of introduced fish


Dramatic changes in environmental conditions or community composition may impose severe selective pressures on resident populations. These changes in the selective regime can lead to demographic bottlenecks or local extinction. The consequence of demographic contraction is often a reduction of standing genetic variation. Since the level of adaptive genetic variation in populations plays an important role in persistence and adaptive response, understanding genetic resilience and the time course for re-establishment of genetic diversity following demographic perturbations is a critical component of assessing the consequences of changing environments. The introduction of nonnative fish into historically fishless lakes is a particularly dramatic environmental change frequently contributing to demographic bottlenecks and local extinction of native populations. We examine the quantitative- and molecular-genetic recovery of two alpine populations of the zooplankton Daphnia melanica from the Sierra Nevada, California, USA. These populations were extirpated by introduced salmonids and subsequently re-established following the experimental removal of nonnative fish. We obtained data for nuclear and mitochondrial markers and conducted a common-garden experiment to assess the levels of molecular- and quantitative-genetic variation following experimental fish removal. Reestablished D. melanica populations attained levels of nuclear genetic diversity only slightly lower than surrounding fishless populations in the first year following fish removal and substantial mitochondrial and quantitative-genetic diversity within 8 years. This high level of genetic resilience was likely facilitated by multiple sources of genetic variation, including immigration from neighboring populations and hatching from a local reservoir of diapausing eggs. Our results highlight the genetic resilience of taxa with reservoirs of genetic variation in seed or egg banks.