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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 664:103-116 (2021)  -  DOI:

Assessment of local genetic structure and connectivity of the common eelgrass Zostera marina for seagrass restoration in northern Europe

Lourdes Martínez-García1,3, Bengt Hansson1, Johan Hollander2,*

1Department of Biology, Lund University, 223 62 Lund, Sweden
2World Maritime University, Sasakawa Global Ocean Institute, 211 18 Malmö, Sweden
3Present address: Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Synthesis (CEES), Department of Biosciences, University of Oslo, Blindernveien 31, NO-0371 Oslo, Norway
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Seagrass meadows are one of the most important habitats in coastal regions since they constitute a multifunctional ecosystem providing high productivity and biodiversity. They play a key role in carbon sequestration capacity, mitigation against coastal erosion and as nursery grounds for many marine fish and invertebrates. However, despite these ecosystem functions and services, seagrass meadows are a threatened ecosystem worldwide. In the Baltic Sea, seagrass meadows have declined rapidly, mainly because of eutrophication, anthropogenic activities and climate change. This decline has the potential to erode the genetic variation and genetic structure of the species. In this study, we assessed how genetic variation and genetic differentiation vary among Zostera marina meadows and with a number of environmental characteristics in the county of Scania in southern Sweden. A total of 205 individuals sampled at 12 locations were analysed with 10 polymorphic microsatellite loci. Results showed that in spite of anthropogenic impacts and climate change pressures, locations of Z. marina possessed high genetic variation and weak genetic differentiation, with 3 major genetic clusters. Long-distance dispersal and/or stepping-stone dispersal was found among locations, with higher migration rates within the west coast. Organic matter, salinity and maximum depth appeared to be factors most strongly associated with the genetic structure and morphological variation of Z. marina. These findings contribute significantly in the identification of potential donor sites and the viability of impacted areas to recover from natural recruitment, for the development of effective transplantation measures of Z. marina in the southern Baltic Sea and temperate regions elsewhere.

KEY WORDS: Zostera marina · Genetic structure · Genetic variation · Environmental variables · Restoration · Transplantation

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Cite this article as: Martínez-García L, Hansson B, Hollander J (2021) Assessment of local genetic structure and connectivity of the common eelgrass Zostera marina for seagrass restoration in northern Europe. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 664:103-116.

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