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Publication Title

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America








Populations of the temperate seagrass, Zostera marina L. (eelgrass), often exist as discontinuous beds in estuaries, harbors, and bays where they can reproduce sexually or vegetatively through clonal propagation. We examined the genetic structure of three geographically and morphologically distinct populations from central California (Elkhorn Slough, Tomales Bay, and Del Monte Beach), using multilocus restriction fragment length polymorphisms (DNA fingerprints). Within-population genetic similarity (Sw) values for the three eelgrass populations ranged from 0.44 to 0.68. The Tomales Bay population located in an undisturbed, littoral site possessed a within-population genetic similarity (Sw = 0.44) that was significantly lower than those of the other two populations. Cluster analysis identified genetic substructure in only the undisturbed subtidal population (Del Monte Beach). Between-population similarity values Sb for all pairwise comparisons ranged from 0.47 to 0.51. The three eelgrass populations show significantly less between locale genetic similarity than found within populations, indicating that gene flow is restricted between locales even though two of the populations are separated by only 30 km. The study demonstrates that (i) natural populations of Z. marina from both disturbed and undisturbed habitats possess high genetic diversity and are not primarily clonal, (ii) gene flow is restricted even between populations in dose proximity, (iii) an intertidal population from a highly disturbed habitat shows much lower genetic diversity than an intertidal population from an undisturbed site, and (iv) DNA fingerprinting techniques can be exploited to understand gene flow and population genetic structure in Z. marina, a widespread and ecologically important species, and as such are relevant to the management of this coastal resource.

Original Publication Citation

Alberte, R.S., Suba, G.K., Procaccini, G., Zimmerman, R.C., & Fain, S.R. (1994). Assessment of genetic diversity of seagrass populations using DNA fingerprinting: Implications for population stability and management. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 91(3), 1049-1053. doi: 10.1073/pnas.91.3.1049