Demographic and genetic connectivity: the role and consequences of reproduction, dispersal and recruitment in seagrasses

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Abstract

Accurate estimation of connectivity among populations is fundamental for determining the drivers of population resilience, genetic diversity, adaptation and speciation. However the separation and quantification of contemporary versus historical connectivity remains a major challenge. This review focuses on marine angiosperms, seagrasses, that are fundamental to the health and productivity of temperate and tropical coastal marine environments globally. Our objective is to understand better the role of sexual reproduction and recruitment in influencing demographic and genetic connectivity among seagrass populations through an integrated multidisciplinary assessment of our present ecological, genetic, and demographic understanding, with hydrodynamic modelling of transport. We investigate (i) the demographic consequences of sexual reproduction, dispersal and recruitment in seagrasses, (ii) contemporary transport of seagrass pollen, fruits and seed, and vegetative fragments with a focus on hydrodynamic and particle transport models, and (iii) contemporary genetic connectivity among seagrass meadows as inferred through the application of genetic markers. New approaches are reviewed, followed by a summary outlining future directions for research: integrating seascape genetic approaches; incorporating hydrodynamic modelling for dispersal of pollen, seeds and vegetative fragments; integrating studies across broader geographic ranges; and incorporating non-equilibrium modelling. These approaches will lead to a more integrated understanding of the role of contemporary dispersal and recruitment in the persistence and evolution of seagrasses.

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