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Hurricanes overcome migration lag and shape intraspecific genetic variation beyond a poleward mangrove range limit

Kennedy, John Paul and Dangremond, Emily M and Hayes, Matthew A and Preziosi, Richard F and Rowntree, Jennifer K and Feller, Ilka C (2020) Hurricanes overcome migration lag and shape intraspecific genetic variation beyond a poleward mangrove range limit. Molecular Ecology. ISSN 0962-1083

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Abstract

Expansion of many tree species lags behind climate‐change projections. Extreme storms can rapidly overcome this lag, especially for coastal species, but how will storm‐driven expansion shape intraspecific genetic variation? Do storms provide recruits only from the nearest sources, or from more distant sources? Answers to these questions have ecological and evolutionary implications, but empirical evidence is absent from the literature. In 2017, Hurricane Irma provided an opportunity to address this knowledge gap at the northern range limit of the neotropical black mangrove (Avicennia germinans ) on the Atlantic coast of Florida, USA. We observed massive post‐hurricane increases in beach‐stranded A. germinans propagules at, and past, this species’ present‐day range margin when compared to a previously‐surveyed, non‐hurricane year. Yet, propagule dispersal does not guarantee subsequent establishment and reproductive success (i.e., effective dispersal). We also evaluated prior effective dispersal along this coastline with isolated A. germinans trees identified beyond the most northern established population. We used 12 nuclear microsatellite loci to genotype 896 hurricane‐driven drift propagules from nine sites and 10 isolated trees from four sites, determined their sources of origin, and estimated dispersal distances. Almost all drift propagules and all isolated trees came from the nearest sources. This research suggests that hurricanes are a prerequisite for poleward range expansion of a coastal tree species and that storms can shape the expanding gene pool by providing almost exclusively range‐margin genotypes. These insights and empirical estimates of hurricane‐driven dispersal distances should improve our ability to forecast distributional shifts of coastal species.

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