Seagrass connectivity in the hotspot of marine biodiversity

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Most marine populations are spatially separated, but interconnected by individual movement described as connectivity. Population connectivity is a vital component in maintaining population persistence and resilience, thus highly relevant to conservation. It allows gene flow to spread advantageous genes and avoid local inbreeding. It also reduces the risk of local extinctions by facilitating continuous recruitment from other sites.

The Indo-Australian Archipelago (IAA) is well recognized as the hotspot of marine biodiversity. Historical geology and contemporary oceanographic currents interacting with the varying ecological and life histories of marine taxa result in varying patterns of marine connectivity in the IAA. To date, our understanding of marine connectivity in the IAA is based overwhelmingly on studies of fishes and invertebrates. Despite its important roles in coastal ecosystems, seagrass connectivity is poorly known in the IAA.

In this PhD project, I will use Thalassia hemprichii, one of the dominant seagrass species in the IAA, as a model for assessing historical and contemporary connectivity in the region. Using a genetic approach, connectivity will be examined at a region scale (from hundreds to thousands kilometres) and a small spatial scale (from a few to several hundred kilometres). This study will provide baseline information about genetics and connectivity of T. hemprichii populations. This information is important for conservation management of the seagrass into the future.

Anyone interested in this project, feel free to contact me (Udhi).

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