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Aquatic Biology

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AB 7:45-58 (2009)  -  DOI:

Understanding marine reserve function in a seascape genetics context: Nucella lapillus in Strangford Lough (Northern Ireland) as an example

Caitríona E. McInerney1, A. Louise Allcock1,2, Mark P. Johnson1,2, Paulo A. Prodöhl1,*

1School of Biological Sciences, Queen’s University Belfast, Medical Biology Centre, 97 Lisburn Road, Belfast BT9 7BL, Northern Ireland, UK
2Present address: Martin Ryan Marine Science Institute, National University of Ireland Galway, University Road, Galway, Ireland
*Corresponding author. Email:

ABSTRACT: A conservation priority in the marine environment is the establishment of ecologically coherent reserve networks. Since these networks will integrate existent reserves, an understanding of spatial genetic diversity and genetic connectivities between areas is necessary. Using Strangford Lough marine nature reserve (MNR) as a model, spatial genetic analyses were employed to evaluate the function of the lough. Samples of the marine gastropod Nucella lapillus (L.) from 7 locations in the reserve and adjacent areas were screened at 6 microsatellites. Genetic variation was temporally stable. Significant genetic structuring (FST = 0.133) was observed among samples. Genetic divergence and isolation by distance indicated reduced gene flow between the marine reserve and coastal samples relative to that between adjacent coastal samples. Partitioning of genetic variation between the reserve and coast was significant (AMOVA, 7.45%, p < 0.005). Samples within the reserve were not homogeneous, and genetic diversity decreased away from the mouth of the lough. Relative genetic isolation and reduced genetic diversity in the reserve may be caused by hydrographic barriers. A cline in genetic structure was observed in the Irish Sea. This is consistent with patterning of gene flow by predominant currents, habitat availability and seasonal oceanographic features. It appears that mesoscale topographic and hydrographic features drive patterns of genetic diversity, and these factors are likely to be important for understanding MNR function. For direct developers lacking a planktonic phase, such as N. lapillus, considerations of the ecological coherence of a network are likely to be highly dependent on the habitat lying outside reserves.

KEY WORDS: Ecological coherence · Dogwhelk · Microsatellite · Coastline · Dispersal

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Cite this article as: McInerney CE, Allcock AL, Johnson MP, Prodöhl PA (2009) Understanding marine reserve function in a seascape genetics context: Nucella lapillus in Strangford Lough (Northern Ireland) as an example. Aquat Biol 7:45-58.

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