Crayfish population managment in Belgium

One goal in conservation biology is to conserve the genetic diversity of endangered species to protect their adaptative potential. Therefore, it is essential to explore the genetic composition of natural populations to define evolutionary significant units (ESUs) as basis for modern conservation management plans. In cases where no genetic data is available conventional management plans treat different catchments as separate ESUs for restocking. The aim of this study was to resolve the genetic structure of natural Belgian noble crayfish populations for future conservation strategies in Belgium. Using microsatellites we analyzed populations from the Scheldt and the Meuse basin as well as a Belgian hatchery with crayfish originating from the Rhine basin in France, and compared the data with a European-wide dataset. In particular, we addressed the following questions:

  1. Do Belgian noble crayfish differ from European noble crayfish in their genetic composition?
  2. Do the populations present in the river basins Scheldt and Meuse form two independent ESUs?
  3. Is it advisable to (re)stock natural waters with individuals from the Belgian hatchery?


Anne Schrimpf

Kathrin Theissinger