Connectivity within and among a Network of Temperate Marine ReservesReport as inadecuate

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Networks of marine reserves are increasingly being promoted as a means of conserving marine biodiversity. One consideration in designing systems of marine reserves is the maintenance of connectivity to ensure the long-term persistence and resilience of populations. Knowledge of connectivity, however, is frequently lacking during marine reserve design and establishment. We characterise patterns of genetic connectivity of 3 key species of habitat-forming macroalgae across an established network of temperate marine reserves on the east coast of Australia and the implications for adaptive management and marine reserve design. Connectivity varied greatly among species. Connectivity was high for the subtidal macroalgae Ecklonia radiata and Phyllospora comosa and neither species showed any clear patterns of genetic structuring with geographic distance within or among marine parks. In contrast, connectivity was low for the intertidal, Hormosira banksii, and there was a strong pattern of isolation by distance. Coastal topography and latitude influenced small scale patterns of genetic structure. These results suggest that some species are well served by the current system of marine reserves in place along this temperate coast but it may be warranted to revisit protection of intertidal habitats to ensure the long-term persistence of important habitat-forming macroalgae. Adaptively managing marine reserve design to maintain connectivity may ensure the long-term persistence and resilience of marine habitats and the biodiversity they support.

Author: Melinda A. Coleman , Justine Chambers, Nathan A. Knott, Hamish A. Malcolm, David Harasti, Alan Jordan, Brendan P. Kelaher



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