Contrasting Effects of Historical Sea Level Rise and Contemporary Ocean Currents on Regional Gene Flow of Rhizophora racemosa in Eastern Atlantic Mangroves

Magdalene N Ngeve, Tom Van der Stocken, Dimitris Menemenlis, Nico Koedam, Ludwig Triest

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

26 Citations (Scopus)


Mangroves are seafaring taxa through their hydrochorous propagules that have the potential to disperse over long distances. Therefore, investigating their patterns of gene flow provides insights on the processes involved in the spatial genetic structuring of populations. The coastline of Cameroon has a particular geomorphological history and coastal hydrology with complex contemporary patterns of ocean currents, which we hypothesize to have effects on the spatial configuration and composition of present-day mangroves within its spans. A total of 982 trees were sampled from 33 transects (11 sites) in 4 estuaries. Using 11 polymorphic SSR markers, we investigated genetic diversity and structure of Rhizophora racemosa, a widespread species in the region. Genetic diversity was low to moderate and genetic differentiation between nearly all population pairs was significant. Bayesian clustering analysis, PCoA, estimates of contemporary migration rates and identification of barriers to gene flow were used and complemented with estimated dispersal trajectories of hourly released virtual propagules, using high-resolution surface current from a mesoscale and tide-resolving ocean simulation. These indicate that the Cameroon Volcanic Line (CVL) is not a present-day barrier to gene flow. Rather, the Inter-Bioko-Cameroon (IBC) corridor, formed due to sea level rise, allows for connectivity between two mangrove areas that were isolated during glacial times by the CVL. Genetic data and numerical ocean simulations indicated that an oceanic convergence zone near the Cameroon Estuary complex (CEC) presents a strong barrier to gene flow, resulting in genetic discontinuities between the mangrove areas on either side. This convergence did not result in higher genetic diversity at the CEC as we had hypothesized. In conclusion, the genetic structure of Rhizophora racemosa is maintained by the contrasting effects of the contemporary oceanic convergence and historical climate change-induced sea level rise.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0150950
Pages (from-to)1-24
Number of pages24
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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