Genetic characterization of Western European noble crayfish populations (Astacus astacus) for advanced conservation management strategies

A. Schrimpf*, M. Piscione, R. Cammaerts, M. Collas, D. Herman, A. Jung, F. Ottburg, I. Roessink, X. Rollin, R. Schulz, K. Theissinger

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


One central goal of conservation biology is to conserve the genetic diversity of species in order to protect their adaptive potential. The main objective of this study was to identify management units (MUs) for the threatened noble crayfish (Astacus astacus) in Western Europe by utilizing sequence and microsatellite analysis to determine populations in need of focused conservation programs. With the analysis of noble crayfish from 31 sampling sites from Belgium, France, The Netherlands and Germany, and further comparison of this data with a European-wide dataset, we propose four distinct MUs: the French Meuse (MU 1), the French Rhine (MU 2), the Belgian Scheldt and Meuse (MU 3) as well as populations from the French Seine (MU 4). This knowledge enables advanced A. astacus conservation management practises in these catchments by distinguishing between outbreeding and inbreeding populations and by preserving the maximum genetic diversity. When required, a high genetic diversity can be conserved by strengthen existing populations via stocking with populations that either bear the most common haplotype or population-specific private haplotypes in order to maintain recent and regional adaptions. Above all, stocking with populations that exhibit haplotypes from outside Western Europe should be avoided in these catchments. This study supports the preservation of the genetic diversity of noble crayfish in Western Europe and provides thus a proposition for advanced conservation management.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1299-1315
JournalConservation Genetics
Issue number6
Early online date9 Jun 2017
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2017


  • Artificial stocking
  • Management units
  • Microsatellite analysis
  • MtDNA sequences
  • Population genetic diversity
  • Species conservation


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