Palaeoclimatic conditions in the Mediterranean explain genetic diversity of Posidonia oceanica seagrass meadows

Rosa M. Chefaoui, Carlos M. Duarte, Ester A. Serrão

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25 Scopus citations


Past environmental conditions in the Mediterranean Sea have been proposed as main drivers of the current patterns of distribution of genetic structure of the seagrass Posidonia oceanica, the foundation species of one of the most important ecosystems in the Mediterranean Sea. Yet, the location of cold climate refugia (persistence regions) for this species during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) is not clear, precluding the understanding of its biogeographical history. We used Ecological Niche Modelling together with existing phylogeographic data to locate Pleistocene refugia in the Mediterranean Sea and to develop a hypothetical past biogeographical distribution able to explain the genetic diversity presently found in P. oceanica meadows. To do that, we used an ensemble approach of six predictive algorithms and two Ocean General Circulation Models. The minimum SST in winter and the maximum SST in summer allowed us to hindcast the species range during the LGM. We found separate glacial refugia in each Mediterranean basin and in the Central region. Altogether, the results suggest that the Central region of the Mediterranean Sea was the most relevant cold climate refugium, supporting the hypothesis that long-term persistence there allowed the region to develop and retain its presently high proportion of the global genetic diversity of P. oceanica.
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 2 2017

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-01
Acknowledgements: We are grateful to Laure Castaing for her help in the initial data collection. R.M.C. was supported by the postdoctoral fellowship SFRH/BPD/85040/2012 from the Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (FCT, Portugal). We acknowledge FCT funding by “UID/Multi/04326/2013”, MARFOR (FCT-BIODIVERSA/004/2015) and the Pew foundation (USA).


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