AbstractsBiology & Animal Science

Large-scale releases of native species: the mallard as a predictive model system

by Pär Söderquist

Institution: Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
Year: 2015
Keywords: anas; ducks; anatidae; wild animals; farms; animal introduction; hunting; population dynamics; introgression; genotypes; animal morphology; longevity; animal migration; models; sweden; Anas platyrhynchos; farmed; hunting; introgression; longevity; mallard; migration; morphology; population genetic; restocking; SNPs; Sweden
Record ID: 1329113
Full text PDF: http://pub.epsilon.slu.se/11972/


Human alteration of natural systems, and its consequences are of great concern and the impact on global ecosystems is one of the biggest threats that biodiversity stands before. Translocations of invasive species, as well as intraspecific contingents with non-native genotypes, whether they are deliberate or unintentional, are one such alteration and its consequences are continuously being assessed. The mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) is the most numerous and widespread duck in the world and a flagship in wetland conservation. It is also an important game species which is heavily restocked for hunting purposes, especially in Europe where over three million ducklings are released every year. Because of its hunted status, its abundance, and the number of released individuals, it can serve as a model species to study effects of releases, both for conservation and restocking for hunting, on wild populations. In this thesis the status of the mallard was assessed in the Nordic countries and the effects of releases on the wild populations were studied by mining historical ringing data, comparing morphology of present-day wild, farmed, and historical mallards, and analyzing phylogeography of wild and farmed mallards in Europe. The status of the mallard population in the Nordic countries are generally good, however, a joint effort of European countries is needed to monitor and manage the population. A significant difference between wild and farmed mallards concerning longevity, migration, bill morphology and genetic structure was also found, together with signs of cryptic introgression of farmed genotypes in the wild population with potential fitness reduction as a result. The effect is however limited by that only a fraction of released farmed mallards reach the breeding season due to low survival. A natural captive environment is crucial to keep individuals wild-like with high survival rates after release. However, with an introgression of potentially maladapted farmed genotypes leading to a reduction in fitness, a low survival of released mallards would favor the wild population. A legislative change regarding obligation to report numbers, provenance, and release sites of farmed mallard should be considered, together with practical solutions of ringing and genetic monitoring of released mallards.