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Conservation genetics: structural analysis of the common eelgrass (Zostera marina) around Skåne, Sweden

Martínez García, Lourdes (2019) BION02 20182
Degree Projects in Biology
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In the world oceans, seagrass meadows are common and an important habitat. Their presence reduces carbon levels from the atmosphere and increases the number of different animals which improves biodiversity. Yet, seagrass meadows are highly threated. In Sweden, there are several reasons for their loss mainly related to human activities such as constructions close to the coast and overfishing.

In order to recover seagrass meadows and extend its distribution to conserve its benefits, is important to learn about its genetic variation.

Why is genetic variation important?

Global climate change together with human activities have a negative impact on different species. Over the last 100 years, many seagrass... (More)
How different are you?

In the world oceans, seagrass meadows are common and an important habitat. Their presence reduces carbon levels from the atmosphere and increases the number of different animals which improves biodiversity. Yet, seagrass meadows are highly threated. In Sweden, there are several reasons for their loss mainly related to human activities such as constructions close to the coast and overfishing.

In order to recover seagrass meadows and extend its distribution to conserve its benefits, is important to learn about its genetic variation.

Why is genetic variation important?

Global climate change together with human activities have a negative impact on different species. Over the last 100 years, many seagrass meadows have disappeared globally. Low genetic variation within and between meadows endangered the survival of species. This genetic variation could have been reduced as the meadows were disappearing, offering as a result the risk of the plant going extinct as it would not be prepared to respond to climate change effects.

In the present study, genetic variation within and between seagrass meadows, as well as the extent of differences between meadows, which is known as genetic structure, was determined for the only seagrass species in Sweden commonly known as eelgrass. To study these differences, 12 eelgrass meadows were sampled across the West and East coast of Skåne in Sweden. This is an interesting coast to study since the East coast comprise almost freshwater, while the West coast of Skåne contains high salinity levels. Such environmental differences could suggest the achievement of specific adaptations. Eelgrass leaves were collected in meadows for molecular analyses. Once in the laboratory, we performed DNA extraction and interpretation of genetic information. The different environmental variables such as salinity, sediment, temperature and more, were measured to understand its role driving genetic variation.

The results show that human-activities and climate change effects have not influenced the genetic variation negatively since the genetic variation of eelgrass meadows turn out to be high. Yet, eelgrass meadows showed overall weak differentiation which indicates that meadows are similar between each other. The major difference between them was between the West and East coast. Furthermore, the connectivity between locations seemed to be high even between distant meadows. In relation to the environmental aspects, organic matter, salinity and depth are the factors that influenced genetic variation in eelgrass meadows the most.

In conclusion the results suggest that we need to consider genetic differences between meadows belonging to the West and East coast particularly during future restoration projects where transplantations of individual plants need to be sampled from appropriate similar locations.

Master’s Degree Project in Biology 45 credits, June 2019
Department of Biology, Lund University

Advisor: Johan Hollander and co-advisor: Bengt Hansson
Aquatic Ecology (Less)
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
Martínez García, Lourdes
supervisor
organization
course
BION02 20182
year
type
H2 - Master's Degree (Two Years)
subject
language
English
id
8983614
date added to LUP
2019-06-14 09:32:30
date last changed
2019-06-14 09:32:30
@misc{8983614,
  author       = {Martínez García, Lourdes},
  language     = {eng},
  note         = {Student Paper},
  title        = {Conservation genetics: structural analysis of the common eelgrass (Zostera marina) around Skåne, Sweden},
  year         = {2019},
}