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Genetic diversity of Saccharina latissima (Phaeophyceae) along a salinity gradient in the North Sea–Baltic Sea transition zone

Møller Nielsen, Mette, Paulino, Cristina, Neiva, João, Krause‐Jensen, Dorte, Bruhn, Annette, Serrão, Ester A.
Journal of phycology 2016 v.52 no.4 pp. 523-531
Saccharina latissima, at-risk population, climate change, gene flow, genetic markers, genetic variation, macroalgae, salinity, Baltic Sea
The North Sea–Baltic Sea transition zone constitutes a boundary area for the kelp species Saccharina latissima due to a strong salinity gradient operating in the area. Furthermore, the existence of S. latissima there, along Danish waters, is fairly patchy as hard bottom is scarce. In this study, patterns of genetic diversity of S. latissima populations were evaluated along the salinity gradient area of Danish waters (here designated brackish) and were compared to reference sites (here designated marine) outside the gradient area, using microsatellite markers. The results showed that the S. latissima populations were structured into two clusters corresponding to brackish versus marine sites, and that gene flow was reduced both between clusters and between populations within clusters. In addition, results provided empirical evidence that marginal populations of S. latissima in the salinity gradient area exhibited a distinct genetic structure when compared to marine ones. Brackish populations were less diverse, more related, and showed increased differentiation over distance compared to marine populations. The isolation of the brackish S. latissima populations within the salinity gradient area of Danish waters in conjunction with their general low genetic diversity makes these populations vulnerable to ongoing environmental and climate change, predicted to result in declining salinity in the Baltic Sea area that may alter the future distribution and performance of S. latissima in the area.