Scientific publication

Oceanographic connectivity explains the intra-specific diversity of mangrove forests

The crucial role of ocean currents in shaping mangrove genetic diversity, challenging previous assumptions and emphasizing the importance of preserving these ecosystems.

Credits: Matt Hardy on unsplash

Our research group has recently conducted a groundbreaking study that sheds light on the critical role of ocean currents in shaping the genetic diversity of mangroves. Mangrove ecosystems are renowned for their ecological importance, providing valuable services like carbon sequestration, coastal protection, and habitats for various species.

Traditionally, scientists attributed regional differences in mangrove populations and species to historical climate changes, ongoing climate shifts, and human disturbances. However, this study reveals that ocean currents are equally pivotal factors shaping the dynamics of mangrove biodiversity and conservation.

Using state-of-the-art biophysical modeling techniques, we assessed the extent to which mangrove populations are interconnected via ocean currents. These estimates were then validated using genetic data from diverse mangrove species across the globe. The study challenges conventional approaches that rely solely on geographic distances, instead underscoring the critical role that ocean currents play in connecting mangrove populations over vast distances, sometimes spanning thousands of kilometers.

Our lead authors, Lidiane Gouvêa and Jorge Assis, emphasize the far-reaching implications of these findings. They point out that future alterations in ocean current patterns could lead to the isolation and divergence of mangrove populations. Over time, this could result in reduced biodiversity, increased risks of regional extinctions, and direct consequences for the native communities in tropical countries that rely on the species within mangrove forests.

In summary, our research group’s study highlights how ocean currents significantly influence the genetic diversity of mangroves. It underscores the urgent need for the preservation of these vital ecosystems and the species dependent on them.

Main reference

Gouvêa, L. P., Fragkopoulou, E., Cavanaugh, K., Serrão, E. A., Araújo, M. B., Costello, M. J., Westergerling, E. H. T., & Assis, J. (2023). Oceanographic connectivity explains the intra-specific diversity of mangrove forests at global scales. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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Jorge Assis [PhD, Associate Researcher]
Centre of Marine Sciences, University of Algarve [Faro, Portugal]
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