Knowledge of the levels of genetic diversity maintained in natural populations can play a central role in conservation programmes, particularly in threatened habitats or species. Fluctuations in population size can lead to loss of variation and, consequently, increase the risk of extinction. We have examined whether such a genetic bottleneck has occurred in populations of two species in the seagrass genus Zostera, which are believed to have been affected by an outbreak of wasting disease at the start of the last century. A test for heterozygote excess at five nuclear microsatellite loci did not suggest the occurrence of a genetic bottleneck, but analysis of seven chloroplast microsatellite loci and sequence data from two regions did suggest a bottleneck in the chloroplast genome. Extremely low levels of between-population diversity suggest that all subpopulations can be treated as a single management unit for each species. Comparable levels of nuclear genetic diversity were found in the three populations of the primarily sexual Zostera marina var. angustifolia studied but a wider range of within-population diversity was found in Zostera noltii, which displays both. sexual and vegetative reproductive strategies. This may be due to an increase in sexual recruitment due to localised fresh water inflow into the study site near to the most diverse population. Such populations should be prioritised as source material for any replanting or remediation due to natural or anthropogenic loss of Zostera beds in the area.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
- Nature and Landscape Conservation