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Genetic Population Structure of Willamette River Steelhead and the Influence of Introduced Stocks

Jan 5, 2015


Conservation genetics studies are frequently conducted on Pacific salmon Oncorhynchus spp. to delineate their population structure and to quantify their genetic diversity, especially for populations that have experienced declines in abundance and are subject to anthropogenic activities. One such group of salmonids is steelhead O. mykiss (anadromous Rainbow Trout) from the Willamette River, a tributary of the Columbia River. Within the Willamette River there are multiple steelhead life history and run-timing types, some of which originated from nonnative populations. Late winter-run steelhead and Rainbow Trout are native to the Willamette River, whereas early winter-run and summer-run steelhead have been introduced into the system via releases from artificial propagation efforts. We conducted genetic analyses of Willamette River steelhead to determine the effect that nonnative steelhead released into the Willamette River basin have had on the genetic population structure of native steelhead. We found genetic differentiation among the samples that separated steelhead into four population groups that corresponded to run type. Possibly due to local adaptation, the native run type has retained its genetic distinctiveness from the introduced types, despite there being opportunities for gene flow among all types. Introduced early winter-run steelhead appear to be the origin of steelhead inhabiting certain Willamette River tributaries where native steelhead did not historically spawn.


Donald Van Doornik, Maureen Hess, Marc Johnson, David Teel, Thomas Friesen, and James Myers


Van Doornik D.M., M.A. Hess, M.A. Johnson, D.J. Teel, T.A. Friesen, and J.M. Myers. 2015. Genetic population structure of Willamette River steelhead and the influence of introduced stocks. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 144(1):150-162. Online at



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Journal Article