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Ecology. 2016 Dec;97(12):3538-3546. doi: 10.1002/ecy.1587.

Genetic diversity of seagrass seeds influences seedling morphology and biomass.

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Marine and Environmental Science, Marine Science Center, Northeastern University, Nahant, Massachusetts, 01908, USA.
Biology Department, Keene State College, Keene, New Hampshire, 03431, USA.


Genetic diversity can influence ecological processes throughout ontogeny, yet whether diversity at early life history stages is important in long-lived taxa with overlapping generations is unclear. Seagrass systems provide some of the best evidence for the ecological effects of genetic diversity among adult shoots, but we do not know if the genetic diversity of seeds and seedlings also influences seagrass ecology. We tested the effects of seagrass (Zostera marina) seed diversity and relatedness on germination success, seedling morphology, and seedling production by comparing experimental assemblages of seeds collected from single reproductive shoots ("monocultures") to assemblages of seeds collected from multiple reproductive shoots ("polycultures"). There was no difference in seedling emergence, yet seedlings from polycultures had larger shoots above and below ground than seedlings from monocultures at the end of the 1-yr experiment. Genetic relatedness of the seedlings predicted some aspects of shoot morphology, with more leaves and longer roots and shoots at intermediate levels of relatedness, regardless of seed diversity. Our results suggest that studies of only adult stages may underestimate the importance of genetic diversity if the benefits at early life history stages continue to accrue throughout the life cycle.


Zostera marina ; biodiversity-ecosystem function; colonization; eelgrass; genetic diversity; genetic relatedness; germination

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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