Genetic Connectivity among and Self-Replenishment within Island Populations of a Restricted Range Subtropical Reef Fish
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Marine protected areas (MPAs) are increasingly being advocated and implemented to protect biodiversity on coral reefs. Networks of appropriately sized and spaced reserves can capture a high proportion of species diversity, with gene flow among reserves presumed to promote long term resilience of populations to spatially variable threats. However, numerically rare small range species distributed among isolated locations appear to be at particular risk of extinction and the likely benefits of MPA networks are uncertain. Here we use mitochondrial and microsatellite data to infer evolutionary and contemporary gene flow among isolated locations as well as levels of self-replenishment within locations of the endemic anemonefish Amphiprion mccullochi, restricted to three MPA offshore reefs in subtropical East Australia. We infer high levels of gene flow and genetic diversity among locations over evolutionary time, but limited contemporary gene flow amongst locations and high levels of self-replenishment (68 to 84%) within locations over contemporary time. While long distance dispersal explained the species’ integrity in the past, high levels of self-replenishment suggest locations are predominantly maintained by local replenishment. Should local extinction occur, contemporary rescue effects through large scale connectivity are unlikely. For isolated islands with large numbers of endemic species, and high local replenishment, there is a high premium on local species-specific management actions.
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