How does molecular-assisted identification affect our estimation of α, β and γ biodiversity? An example from understory red seaweeds (Rhodophyta) of Laminaria kelp forests in Brittany, France
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- Robuchon, M., Valero, M., Gey, D. et al. Genetica (2015) 143: 207. doi:10.1007/s10709-014-9796-z
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Using two distinct identification methods, one based on morphological characters only and the other combining morphological and molecular characters (integrative identification method), we investigated the differences in the biodiversity patterns of red seaweed communities associated with kelp forests at various spatial scales: the regional diversity of Brittany, France (γ-diversity), the local diversity at different Breton sites (α-diversity) and the differentiation in species diversity and abundances among those sites (β-diversity). To characterise α and β diversities, we conducted an initial survey in winter 2011 at 20 sites belonging to four different sub-regions, with specimens collected from six quadrats of 0.10 m2 at each site, three in the tidal zone dominated by Laminaria digitata and three in the zone dominated by Laminaria hyperborea. To further characterise the regional diversity, we carried out another survey combining several sampling methods (quadrats and visual census) in different seasons (winter, spring and summer) and different years (2011 and 2012). In all, we collected 1990 specimens that were assigned to 76 taxa with the identification method based on morphological characters and 139 taxa using the integrative method. For γ and α diversity, the use of molecular characters revealed several cases of cryptic diversity and both increased the number of identified taxa and improved their taxonomic resolution. However, the addition of molecular characters for specimen identification only slightly affected estimates of β-diversity.