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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Evaluation and Interpretation of Genetic Effective Population Size of Delta Smelt from 2011–2014


Delta Smelt have collapsed demographically, but little is known about their current genetic status. We used 12 microsatellite loci to evaluate two measures of the effective population size (Ne) of Delta Smelt. Ne is a measure that offers predictive power regarding the loss of genetic diversity in a population over time, as well as the short and long-term genetic risks for loss of fitness resulting from low diversity. We found that the Ne of Delta Smelt is too high to accurately estimate with the data (upper 95% confidence intervals were infinity), but the lower confidence intervals of NeLD (linkage disequilibrium Ne) were above 1,000, while some of the lower confidence intervals of NeV (variance Ne) were below 1,000. We interpret this to indicate that Delta Smelt are not declining because of genetic factors, and are not at immediate risk of losing genetic diversity from low Ne. We caution that these estimates are from a short-term data set estimated from a population that has already been declining for decades, and that it is likely that Delta Smelt have lost diversity. We suggest continuing efforts to maximize abundance to prevent further loss of genetic diversity.

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