Connectivity Models

This project aims to compare genetic and genomic evidence for climate influences on connectivity in both native and introduced species using published SNP data for Atlantic cod, microsatellite loci for northern shrimp, and Restriction Associated DNA Sequencing (RAD-Seq) datasets for sea scallop, American lobster, and the introduced European green crab in northwest Atlantic. Genomic evidence for fine geographic scale population structure and particularly intra-specific climate associated variation in marine species is mounting, suggesting it may be pervasive across many groups of taxa.

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The northwest Atlantic is characterized by one of the steepest marine climatic gradients found globally, which we hypothesize should pose major influence on spatial connectivity for populations of marine fish and invertebrates in the region. Genomic analyses have revealed remarkably similar trends in connectivity among all species evaluated, despite a diversity of life history strategies. Observations of consistent genetic spatial discontinuities among species with contrasting life histories, suggests that (1) this may be a pervasive phenomenon across taxa in the region, (2) prevailing environment features of the region likely play an important role in regulating connectivity, (3) genetic estimates of connectivity can be integrated into ecological niche models, providing a basis for assessment and prediction, (4) that variation in climate associated connectivity could present sensitive macro-ecological indicator for marine climate change impact assessment, and (5) genomic estimates of connectivity could provide an important and novel consideration for spatial conservation measures, otherwise missed by conventional approaches.

Project Deliverables / Achievements

  • Maps of genomic connectivity networks for two commercially important species and one ecologically significant species in selected Atlantic regions to support ecological niche models and decisions on network design is completed.

  • Genetic connectivity analysis is completed.

  • R package for the manipulation of large genomic datasets is completed.

  • Comparison of corridors of connectivity based on habitat suitability with genetic models of migration is near completion.

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North West Atlantic