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Global patterns and drivers of genetic diversity among marine habitat‐forming species
Figuerola-Ferrando, L.; Barreiro, A.; Montero-Serra, I.; Pagès-Escolà, M.; Garrabou, J.; Linares, C.; Ledoux, J.-B. (2023). Global patterns and drivers of genetic diversity among marine habitat‐forming species. Glob. Ecol. Biogeogr. 32(7): 1218-1229.
In: Global Ecology and Biogeography. Blackwell Science: Oxford. ISSN 1466-822X; e-ISSN 1466-8238, more
Peer reviewed article  

Available in  Authors 

Author keywords
    bimodal gradient, latitudinal genetic diversity pattern, macrogenetics, marine benthic ecosystems, marine habitat-forming species, marine protected areas, species genetic diversity correlation

Authors  Top 
  • Figuerola-Ferrando, L.
  • Barreiro, A.
  • Montero-Serra, I.
  • Pagès-Escolà, M.
  • Garrabou, J., more
  • Linares, C.
  • Ledoux, J.-B.


    Intraspecific genetic diversity is one of the pillars of biodiversity, supporting the resilience and evolutionary potential of populations. Yet, our knowledge regarding the patterns of genetic diversity at macroecological scales, so-called macrogenetic patterns, remains scarce, particularly in marine species. Marine habitat-forming (MHF) species are key species in some of the most diverse but also most impacted marine ecosystems, such as coral reefs and marine forests. We characterize the patterns and drivers of genetic diversity in MHF species and provide a macrogenetic baseline, which can be used for conservation planning and for future genetic monitoring programmes.



    Time period


    Major taxa studied

    Bryozoans, hexacorals, hydrozoans, octocorals, seagrasses, seaweeds, sponges.


    We analysed a database including genetic diversity estimates based on microsatellites in more than 9,000 georeferenced populations from 140 species, which belong to seven animal and plant taxa. Focusing on expected heterozygosity, we used generalized additive models to test the effect of latitude, taxon, and conservation status. We tested the correlation between the species richness and the genetic diversity.


    We reveal a significant but complex biogeographic pattern characterized by a bimodal latitudinal trend influenced by taxonomy. We also report a positive species genetic diversity correlation at the scale of the ecoregions. The difference in genetic diversity between protected and unprotected areas was not significant.

    Main conclusions

    The contrasting results between MHF animals and plants suggest that the latitudinal genetic diversity patterns observed in MHF species are idiosyncratic, as reported in terrestrial species. Our results support the existence of shared drivers between genetic and species diversities, which remain to be formally identified. Concerning, these macrogenetic patterns are not aligned from the existing network of marine protected areas. Providing the first macrogenetic baseline in MHF species, this study echoes the call regarding the need to consider genetic diversity in biodiversity assessments and management.

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