Seascape genetics and biophysical connectivity modelling support conservation of the seagrass Zostera marina in theSkagerrak–Kattegat region of the eastern North Sea

Jahnke, M., Jonsson, P. R., Moksnes, P-O., Loo, L-O., Jacobi, M. N. & Olsen, J. L., Jun-2018, In : Evolutionary Applications. 11, 5, p. 645-661 17 p.

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  • Marlene Jahnke
  • Per R. Jonsson
  • Per-Olav Moksnes
  • Lars-Ove Loo
  • Martin Nilsson Jacobi
  • Jeanine L. Olsen
Maintaining and enabling evolutionary processes within meta-populations are critical to resistance, resilience and adaptive potential. Knowledge about which populations act as sources or sinks, and the direction of gene flow, can help to focus conservation efforts more effectively and forecast how populations might respond to future anthropogenic and environmental pressures. As a foundation species and habitat provider, Zostera marina (eelgrass) is of critical importance to ecosystem functions including fisheries. Here, we estimate connectivity of Z. marina in the Skagerrak–Kattegat region of the North Sea based on genetic and biophysical modelling. Genetic diversity, population structure and migration were analysed at 23 locations using 20 microsatellite loci and a suite of analytical approaches. Oceanographic connectivity was analysed using Lagrangian dispersal simulations based on contemporary and historical distribution data dating back to the late 19th century. Population clusters, barriers and networks of connectivity were found to be very similar based on either genetic or oceanographic analyses. A single-generation model of dispersal was not realistic, whereas multigeneration models that integrate stepping-stone dispersal and extant and historic distribution data were able to capture and model genetic connectivity patterns well. Passive rafting of flowering shoots along oceanographic currents is the main driver of gene flow at this spatial–temporal scale, and extant genetic connectivity strongly reflects the “ghost of dispersal past“ sensu Benzie, 1999. The identification of distinct clusters, connectivity hotspots and areas where connectivity has become limited over the last century is critical information for spatial management, conservation and restoration of eelgrass.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)645-661
Number of pages17
JournalEvolutionary Applications
Issue number5
Early online date28-Dec-2017
Publication statusPublished - Jun-2018


  • barrier analysis, conservation, directional dispersal, isolation by oceanography, Lagrangian particles, seascape genetics, GREAT-BARRIER-REEF, POPULATION-STRUCTURE, COASTAL ECOSYSTEMS, POSIDONIA-OCEANICA, COMPUTER-PROGRAM, LOCAL ADAPTATION, NETWORK ANALYSIS, GLACIAL REFUGIA, DISPERSAL, DIVERSITY
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  1. Data from: Seascape genetics and biophysical connectivity modelling support conservation of the seagrass Zostera marina in the Skagerrak-Kattegat region of the eastern North Sea

    Jahnke, M. F. (Creator), Jonsson, P. R. (Creator), Moksnes, P. (Creator), Loo, L. (Creator), Jacobi, M. N. (Creator) & Olsen, J. (Creator), University of Groningen, 18-Dec-2017


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