Giant Kelp Genetic Monitoring Before And After Disturbance Reveals Stable Genetic Diversity In Southern California
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Giant Kelp Genetic Monitoring Before And After Disturbance Reveals Stable Genetic Diversity In Southern California

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  • Journal Title:
    Frontiers in Marine Science
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    Given the impacts of climate change and other anthropogenic stressors on marine systems, there is a need to accurately predict how species respond to changing environments and disturbance regimes. The use of genetic tools to monitor temporal trends in populations gives ecologists the ability to estimate changes in genetic diversity and effective population size that may be undetectable by traditional census methods. Although multiple studies have used temporal genetic analysis, they usually involve commercially important species, and rarely sample before and after disturbance. In this study, we run a temporal analysis of giant kelp, Macrocystis pyrifera, genetic diversity over the scope of 10 years (2008-2018) using the same microsatellite marker panel to assess the genetic consequences of disturbance in several populations of giant kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera) in the Southern California Bight. The study is a rare pre- and post-disturbance microsatellite analysis that included declines to giant kelp caused by the 2015/16 El Nino Southern Oscillation event. We used canopy biomass estimated by remote sensing (Landsat) to quantify the extent of disturbance to kelp beds, and sea surface temperature data to understand how kelp was pushed towards its temperature limits during this period. Despite prolonged periods with decreased canopy at several sites, no changes in genetic structure and allelic richness were observed. We argue that giant kelp in the region is best described as a “patchy population” system where true extinctions are rare. We discuss how deep refugia of subsurface sporophytes and cryptic microscopic life stages could have kept genetic diversity through disturbance. Given the increasing effects of climate change and uncertainty in modeling impacts of species with cryptic life history stages, we suggest further investigation to reveal the role such stages play in species resilience. Genetic monitoring studies of sites selected by remote census demographic and climate surveys should be continued in the future given the predicted impacts of climate change.
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    Frontiers in Marine Science, 9
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    2296-7745
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    CC BY
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    Submitted
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