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Genetic diversity in threatened Posidonia australis seagrass meadows

Abstract

Recognising patterns of genetic diversity and connectivity is integral to understanding the mechanisms behind population declines and formulating management plans for the conservation of threatened or endangered species. This is particularly important for clonal organisms such as seagrasses, which are experiencing rapid global decline. This study quantifies genetic diversity within 12 naturally fragmented Posidonia australis meadows on the east coast of Australia, using a set of eight microsatellite DNA markers. Genetic diversity increased with latitude, moving away from the range-edge, and was significantly lower in six mid-range endangered meadows and the two northernmost meadows. These meadows also showed evidence of shared multilocus genotypes despite significant geographic separation. The four southernmost meadows were genetically differentiated from all other meadows further north, and all multilocus genotypes identified were unique to their sample locations. We conclude that patterns of low diversity in the endangered and northern meadows are likely due to a population bottleneck caused by a range-edge effect. A common ancestral source meadow existing prior to historical sea level changes may explain the sharing of multilocus genotypes, as contemporary gene flow between these geographically isolated meadows is unlikely. Our findings have important implications for conservation, highlighting the endangered and range-edge populations as those potentially most at risk of extinction should environmental conditions change. These results can be utilised for the location of suitable donor populations for transplanting purposes as a means of mitigating further declines.

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Acknowledgments

This research was undertaken with the support of an Australian Postgraduate Award at the University of New South Wales. The genotyping was undertaken at the Botanical Gardens and Parks Authority in Perth. Financial support was provided by an Australian Research Council Linkage Grant (LP0991150), with Industry Partners Cockburn Cement, Department of Environment and Conservation (now Department of Parks and Wildlife) Western Australia, and the Botanic Gardens and Parks Authority, Western Australia. We thank Melinda Coleman for advice on genetic analyses, Alexandra Campbell, Ezequiel Marzinelli, Mariana Mayer-Pinto and Ray Blick for constructive comments that improved this manuscript and the Evolution & Ecology Research Centre and the Centre for Marine Bio-Innovation for funding and support. All research was conducted with the permission of New South Wales Fisheries (Permit No. P11/0059-1.1).

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Correspondence to Suzanna M. Evans.

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10592_2014_573_MOESM1_ESM.docx

Supplementary Table 1 Pairwise FST estimates between all locations are displayed below diagonal. Corresponding P-values are displayed above diagonal, withsites that are significantly genetically different from each other shown in bold. Shaded areas represent within status (endangered/non-endangered)pairwise comparisons. Location abbreviations are Wallis Lake (WL), Port Stephens (PS), Lake Macquarie (LM), Brisbane Water (BW), Pittwater(PW), Sydney Harbour (SH), Botany Bay (BB), Port Hacking (PH), Jervis Bay (JB), St. Georges Basin (SG), Merimbula Lake (ML) and PambulaLake (PL) (DOCX 19 kb)

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Evans, S.M., Sinclair, E.A., Poore, A.G.B. et al. Genetic diversity in threatened Posidonia australis seagrass meadows. Conserv Genet 15, 717–728 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10592-014-0573-4

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Keywords

  • Genetic diversity
  • Microsatellite DNA
  • Multilocus genotypes
  • Clonality
  • Conservation
  • Seagrass