Contemporary genetic structure of Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar L.) in the River Moy in
Ireland is shown here to be strongly related to landscape features and population demographics, with populations being defined largely by their degree of physical isolation and their size. Samples of juvenile salmon were collected from the 17 major spawning areas on the river Moy and from one spawning area in each of five smaller nearby rivers. No temporal allele frequency differences were observed within locations for 12 microsatellite loci, whereas nearly all spatial samples differed significantly, suggesting that each was a separate population. Bayesian clustering and landscape genetic analyses suggest that these populations can be combined hierarchically into five genetically informative larger groupings. Lakes were found to be the single most important determinant of the observed population structure. Spawning area size was also an important factor. The salmon population of the closest nearby river resembled genetically the largest Moy population grouping. In addition, we showed that anthropogenic influences on spawning habitats, in this case arterial drainage, can affect relationships between populations. Our results show that Atlantic salmon biodiversity can be largely defined by geography, and thus, knowledge of landscape features (for example, as characterized within Geographical Information Systems) has the potential to
predict population structure in other rivers without an intensive genetic survey, or at least to help direct sampling. This approach of combining genetics and geography, for sampling and in subsequent statistical analyses, has wider application to the investigation of population structure in other freshwater/anadromous fish species and possibly in marine fish and other organisms.