An Experimental Test of Alternative Population Augmentation Scenarios

Document Type


Publication Date



Adaptive divergence, Assisted migration, Demographic rescue, Genetic divergence, Genetic rescue, Poecilia reticulata, Supplementation, Translocation

Organizational Units

Interdisciplinary Research Incubator for the Study of (In)Equality


Human land use is fragmenting habitats worldwide and inhibiting dispersal among previously connected populations of organisms, often leading to inbreeding depression and reduced evolutionary potential in the face of rapid environmental change. To combat this augmentation of isolated populations with immigrants is sometimes used to facilitate demographic and genetic rescue. Augmentation with immigrants that are genetically and adaptively similar to the target population effectively increases population fitness, but if immigrants are very genetically or adaptively divergent, augmentation can lead to outbreeding depression. Despite well-cited guidelines for the best practice selection of immigrant sources, often only highly divergent populations remain, and experimental tests of these riskier augmentation scenarios are essentially nonexistent. We conducted a mesocosm experiment with Trinidadian guppies (Poecilia reticulata) to test the multigenerational demographic and genetic effects of augmenting 2 target populations with 3 types of divergent immigrants. We found no evidence of demographic rescue, but we did observe genetic rescue in one population. Divergent immigrant treatments tended to maintain greater genetic diversity, abundance, and hybrid fitness than controls that received immigrants from the source used to seed the mesocosms. In the second population, divergent immigrants had a slightly negative effect in one treatment, and the benefits of augmentation were less apparent overall, likely because this population started with higher genetic diversity and a lower reproductive rate that limited genetic admixture. Our results add to a growing consensus that gene flow can increase population fitness even when immigrants are more highly divergent and may help reduce uncertainty about the use of augmentation in conservation.

Publication Statement

Copyright held by author or publisher. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

This document is currently not available here.