Genetic connectivity of the broadcast spawning reef coral Platygyra sinensis on impacted reefs, and the description of new microsatellite markers
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As tropical coral reef habitats continue to be lost or degraded, understanding the genetic diversity and connectivity among populations is essential for making informed management decisions. This is particularly important in rapidly developing, land-scarce nations (such as Singapore) that require targeted conservation efforts. Sixty percentage of Singapore’s coral cover has been lost over the past five decades, and with further coastal reclamation underway, it is imperative to understand the effects of development on coral connectivity. In this study, we used seven microsatellite markers, of which six are newly described here, to investigate the genetic diversity and connectivity of the massive hard coral Platygyra sinensis at nine sites in Singapore and three in the nearby Indonesian island of Bintan. Our results show that P. sinensis currently retains large effective population sizes, high genetic diversity, as well as high connectivity among sites within each locality, which suggest that these populations have good potential for continued survival provided that there are no island-wide disturbances. However, the Singapore Strait appears to be a mild barrier to gene flow, which may lead to an increased reliance on self-seeding at either location. We suggest some directions for their management based on these potential population boundaries, which can help pave the path for marine conservation planning in Singapore.
KeywordsPlatygyra sinensis Genetic connectivity Microsatellites Singapore Coastal impacts Larval dispersal
Permission to conduct research sampling in Indonesia was obtained through the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) and the State Ministry of Research and Technology (RISTEK), under the research permit number 12/TKPIPA/FRP/SM/XII/2009. We thank S Lance and the Savannah Ecology Laboratory for the microsatellite library construction, members of the Marine Biology Laboratory for their assistance in the field, and the staff of the Banyan Tree Bintan Conservation Laboratory for their logistical support. We also thank VE Chhatre for his guidance on the use of several of the genetic softwares, D Huang and DP Araújo for their comments on early drafts of the manuscript, and CJ Starger for the insightful comments and suggestions to improve the manuscript. Special thanks to R Meier for his constructive advice, and allowing the free access to and use of his laboratory facilities for conducting the genetic work. This research was supported by a grant from the Technical Committee on the Coastal and Marine Environment of Singapore (Grant No. R-154-000-411-490). The first author would also like to acknowledge the World Future Foundation (WFF) for their support of this research by awarding her the WFF PhD Prize in Environmental and Sustainability Research.
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